School district enrollment down, funding at risk

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Monday, September 14, 2015 9:45pm
  • News

Enrollment for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is hovering at 90 fewer students than originally projected, which may mean a nearly $1 million cut to expected local and state funding for the 2015–2016 school year.

Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones discussed a one-day snapshot from the school district’s annual 10-Day count of full- and part-time student enrollment with the Board of Education at the Sept. 8 meeting. On Sept. 1, the single day from the count Jones presented, the number of full-time students was down by 98.

“At this point in time, enrollment is under our predictions district-wide,” Jones said. “Some schools are up, some schools are down. The important thing is if we look right now, on a daily basis, right now, we are down.”

The school district had 8,734 seats filled by full-time students on Sept. 1, which climbs to 8,937 if including part-time students.

“Last November we projected we would have 8,820 full-time students this year,” Jones said.

The count is taken at the start of every school year to make sure staffing is at an appropriate level in school district classrooms, Jones said. If there are more or fewer students per educator, teachers may be moved around, he said.

The count also gives administration an idea of the results of the official 20-Day OASIS Count, or On-Line Alaska School Information System, Jones said.

The annual OASIS count is taken by publicly funded school districts throughout Alaska. The totals are sent to the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development and determine exactly how much funding a school district receives based on an average of how many students are tallied.

If similar numbers are recorded during the 20-Day count as during the 10-Day count, the school district may receive as much as $800,000 less from the state, which in turn could mean the maximum allowable contribution that the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly agreed to fund this year would be nearly $200,000 less, totaling an almost $1 million loss, Jones said.

Administrators have been working with school principals to figure out the reason for the decline, Jones said.

So far, there does not seem to be any common reason for such an decrease, he said.

Jones pointed out the kindergarten grade level as having significantly fewer students than in recent years, although the number of incoming students is always hard to accurately project, he said.

There is a chance the numbers may even out a bit by the time the 20-Day count begins on Sept. 28 and is recorded through Oct. 23 this year, Jones said. The state also takes into account the greater needs of special education students, who are given more funding per individual and are not included in the 10-Day count, he said.

Principals submit projections to the school district office every year, and the administration couples those projections with the 20-Day OASIS count to make a final enrollment projection for the following school year, Jones said.

The deadline for principals to submit individual site projections for the 2016–2017 school year is Oct. 1, according to the school district’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Development Calendar.

The final projection handed to the Department of Education & Early Development will be submitted on Nov. 5, Jones said.

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

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