Soldotna High School English teacher Nicole Hewitt teaches her students remotely from her empty classroom at Soldotna High School on Monday, April 6, 2020 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna High School English teacher Nicole Hewitt teaches her students remotely from her empty classroom at Soldotna High School on Monday, April 6, 2020 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly asks state to use 2019 enrollment counts to determine funding

The number of students currently taking classes in person is about 1,700 less than was expected.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will ask the State of Alaska to use last year’s student enrollment numbers when it determines how much funding the district should receive this year.

The assembly voted on the request, formally known as Resolution 2020-061, during their Tuesday night meeting, which at one point had 44 spectators watching via Zoom.

Because of concerns related to COVID-19, some parents have opted to have their children take classes remotely this semester, but the amount of money schools receive from the state is in part determined by the number of students physically present in classrooms each day. Using this year’s numbers will lead to a decrease in funding that may cause problems if some students currently working remotely decide to return to in-person classes next semester.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD) Assistant Superintendent David Jones said that some parents who are having their children work remotely have indicated that they may send their children back to in-person classes if they are not as concerned about COVID-19 in the future. Jones said that while he understands parents’ concerns, the district is paid for the students physically in the building during the count, which will begin on Sept. 25.

According to Jones, the number of students currently taking classes in person is about 1,700 less than was expected, and that there are about 850 more students enrolled in the Connections home-school program. This will impact budget estimations moving forward because in-person students are worth more than remote students due to their association with costs related to operating a building and hiring teachers.

Jones also said that while there is existing legislation in Alaska related to “brick-and-mortar” schools, it doesn’t reflect “intensive need students.”

“If … your resolution doesn’t happen, we would lose about $2.3 or $2.4 million from the loss of students even with the existing legislation that refunds us 75% of the loss from our neighborhood brick-and-mortar schools,” Jones said. “With this support, you would be helping us to the tune of about $2.4 million.”

KPBSD Board Member Debbie Cary also spoke in favor of the resolution, which she said “will allow the district some financial security moving forward.”

“As with any emergency, this was an unpredictable situation,” Cary said. “And as such, holding KPBSD, or any school district across the state, harmless will allow districts to focus on educating and meeting the social and emotional needs of students.”

The resolution passed unanimously.

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