District releases 5 year enrollment projection

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School district is predicting a slow, but steady, decline in enrollment over the next five years.

This year, the district’s projection of 8,781 students was about 64 students less than the 8,716.34 students reported to the state following the 20-day On-line Alaska School Information System count for Fiscal Year 2018, according to board documents. The state then uses this number, known as the Average Daily Membership, as a factor in determining the school district’s funding.

Since the district’s projections were off, the funding through the state’s Foundation Formula was affected

“The count include 7,988.80 students in brick and mortar schools and 727.54 students enrolled in the Connections home school program. The original enrollment projection also included 189 intensive needs students. An additional 12 students were identified as intensive needs and the number of intensive needs students submitted to the state was 201,” according to board documents.

Through Alaska’s Foundation Formula, intensive needs students are funded as the equivalent of 13 students so the district saw an increased adjustment to their Foundation Formula revenue at about $200,000, according to board documents.

Next year’s enrollment projection was due to the state on Nov. 5, and the district is predicting more of the same next year.

“The reason we do this is mostly for the first year projection,” Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones said at a board work session on Monday. “We have to have an enrollment projection into the state by November 4 so they can start projecting what our projected costs would be for the following year. The first year of the enrollment we came around to doing a rollover projection.”

Jones said the projected enrollment for next year, the 2018 to 2019 school year, the district removes the senior class and adds in a kindergarten class.

“If you’re in a larger school, we’ll look at the last three year averages (of kindergarten students) and assign a number,” Jones said. “If you’re a smaller school, the principals probably know how many little noses are walking around… We move elementary onto the middle and middle onto the high school.”

The process is then repeated for each of the following grade levels, going out five years. The reliability of the projections diminish the further out they go, though.

“The formulas and all those things are good indicators, but they don’t take into account the economy of the state,” Jones said. “We’re pretty confident on year one. Year two is a little shaky and I wouldn’t make any wages of three, four or five.”

For the 2018 to 2019 school year the district has predicted 8,778 students. The following year, 8,771 students are predicted and then in 2020 to 2021 the district predicts a drop to 8,745. In the 2021 to 2022 school year, the district is projecting an enrollment of 8,711 and the following year, 2022 – 2023, they are projecting 8,675.

Jones said the district doesn’t expect surprises similar to this year’s drop in enrollment because one of the district’s smallest grades will be graduating at the end of the school year. This year’s senior class reported an enrollment of 606 students, in comparison to the junior class which has 646 students and the kindergarten class, which welcomed 686 students into the district this year.

“Even though we had a 64 student drop in enrollment this year, when we look at the size of the class going out and the size of the class going in we see this is the smallest class we’ve had moving through our enrollment process for quite a while,” Jones said. “We’re thinking we’re going to be pretty close to what we’ve projected last year.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com