School district predicts enrollment growth

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, January 6, 2015 10:26pm
  • News

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is expecting up to 50 new students to fill seats in district classrooms next year. It would be the first time since 1999 the enrollment count would be higher than the year before.

“Next year we project there will be 8,820 students enrolled in the school district,” said Interim Superintendent Sean Dusek. “In the last couple years we have been processing a bigger class than kindergartners coming in.”

The actual projection for next year ranges between 40-50 students, Dusek said.

The highest membership recorded in the school district was 10,376 students in 1998, according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. The school district’s student population has since been on a downward trend, meaning less state funding.

This year’s enrollment report revealed average membership is at 8,778 students. At the end of the 2013-2014 enrollment count the school district’s student population was at 8,681, according to an enrollment report released Nov. 25, 2013.

Every year the budget cycle starts with projecting student enrollment, which is calculated following the annual 20-day count, according to the 2014-2015 projected enrollment report. Once the count is completed in October, the school district uses those numbers to determine the Average Daily Membership, which is the average of the count, Dusek said. Those numbers are then submitted to the state to determine how much funding the school district will receive for the next fiscal year, Dusek said.

“Student enrollment projections drive the revenue budget and determine staffing needs,” according to the projected enrollment report. “Since employee salary and benefits comprise about 80 percent of expenditures, it’s accurate to say that student enrollment projections also drive the expenditure budget.”

To create enrollment projections, the school district has to predict where a student will be attending classes during the next school year, Dusek said.

Schools principals are consulted for information on what students they believe will be expected to join or leave their buildings for the next school year, Dusek said.

It is easier to predict where students will be the following year in rural areas with schools such as Nanwalek, for example, than in central areas where there are multiple schools a student could feed into, he said.

The real trick to enrollment projections is determining how many incoming kindergartners the school district should prepare for, Dusek said. Up until 2009, the school district was able to incorporate birth data from the State of Alaska Department of Public Health, Vital Statistics Section into their projection calculations, he said, but that information is no longer made available.

This year the school district’s enrollment count was only five students off from last year’s enrollment projections, Dusek said.

“Overall the quality of the system is not bad,” Dusek said. “If you look at each school overall there are some variances.”

The State of Alaska is cross-checking enrollment numbers from the school district’s 20-day count, said school district spokeswomen Pegge Erkeneff. The process likely will be finished by the end of February, she said.

 

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

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