School district enrollment decline likely to continue

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, September 13, 2016 10:26pm
  • News

Enrollment in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is likely to see a decline again this year, continuing a trend set since 1999.

In the annual 10-day count of full- and part-time student enrollment, nearly half of the school district’s 44 schools were found to have fewer students filling seats than projected, Superintendent Sean Dusek reported at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.

“I do anticipate that that (number) will likely to continue to come up although we will likely experience a small decline in enrollment,” he said.

Historically, the enrollment will rise a little by October, said Pegge Erkeneff, school district liaison.

The count commences on the first day of the school year. While the calculation has no bearing on state funding, it can be an indicator of what may come.

Last year, nearly 90 fewer students than projected were attending Kenai Peninsula schools during the 10-day count, leaving the school district to anticipate a loss in state and corresponding Kenai Peninsula Borough combined funding of up to $1 million.

The official head count that determines student-based revenue is taken during the state-mandated 20-Day OASIS Count, or On-Line Alaska School Information System, which will begin this year on Oct. 3 and end on Oct. 28.

It then takes time for the state and school district to check and double check the numbers, and final funding calculations are made official in early spring.

According to the Department of Education and Early Development, the school district’s Average Daily Membership, the attendance average of each of the 20 days recorded in the OASIS count, has consistently declined a little each year since 1999. Enrollment in the school district hit its peak in 1998 at just under 10,400 students.

Once the 2015-2016 OASIS count was complete, only around 30 fewer students were found to have enrolled, and because of an unexpected increase in students who qualify as having intensive need, the school district actually received more state funding than initially expected. A similar situation occurred the previous year.

It is not known yet if the number of students that qualify as intensive needs will increase again this year, Erkeneff said.

That student group, which receives roughly 12 times the amount of state funding as a regular student, is not recorded during the 10-Day Count.

Instead, the process is mainly used to determine if classroom-staffing levels were designed appropriately, and students may be moved around to better fit what resources are available.

“For example, more students show up than expected, so additional staff is needed at a school site,” Erkeneff said. “Or, students may not show up, and so we determine if they moved out of the area over the summer, or made other educational choices.”

In a one-day snapshot of the count, taken on Sept. 2, more than half of all elementary schools with more than 100 students were found to have fewer students than projected. Most middle schools saw an increase in enrollment.

The central Kenai Peninsula high schools seem to have been hit the hardest. Kenai Central High School had 58 fewer students, and Soldotna High School had 19, according to the count.

Nikiski Middle-High School had seven more students than projected, and Kenai Alternative had five more than expected, but do not seem to make up for the overall student decrease in the area.

On the day of the snapshot enrollment held at 8,710 full-time, and 8,926 total students. Projected enrollment was 8,781 total average daily membership.

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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