Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 2:34 PM on Wednesday, December 7, 2011

School district enrollment projected to keep declining



By Logan Tuttle
Morris News Service - Alaska

Enrollment projections for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District continue to decline.

A five-year enrollment projection document was released to the public Monday night during the KPBSD Board of Education meeting. The projection shows enrollment declining by about 546 students from projected fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2017.

"Basically we just take the numbers, third-graders roll to fourth grade, fourth grade rolls to fifth grade," said KPBSD communications specialist Pegge Erkeneff said. "We can have a pretty good pulse of student numbers — if nothing changed with people leaving and moving away, or moving in, it kind of averages out."

Although the enrollment projections are declining, Erkeneff said that does not mean the district will necessarily lose teachers because of how big the district is.

"There's a teacher-to-pupil ratio, and we might not lose 22 students from one school, we might lose four from this one, and five from this one," Erkeneff said. "So with a district as big as ours, it doesn't automatically correlate that just because enrollment is going down, we need fewer staff."

The board also heard presentations from Sheryl Hingley, who is the principal at Susan B. English Elementary/High School in Seldovia and from Lisa Callahan, the principal at Nikiski North Star Elementary. Callahan introduced two fifth-graders, Garrett Ellis and Jaylen Uhls, who presented their social studies projects to the board that were produced using Animoto, which is a web-based software.

There was a first reading of a policy revision regarding the criteria for closing schools. The current policy allows the superintendent to recommend a school be closed if it fails to reach an enrollment of 10 students at the official count date.

"The superintendent may recommend closure for the year or may recommend the school stay in operation for one additional year," the policy reads.

The revised policy would allow the superintendent to recommend the school be closed during the current school year. The revision was introduced by Superintendent Dr. Steve Atwater for the board's consideration.

"This is a more proactive thing for an in-the-future conversation," board President Joe Arness said. "It makes sense to me that if for whatever reason you have a school that sometimes ends up with five kids and then it's just enormously expensive to operate for the rest of the year because the state stops funding that school immediately."

The board will hold public comments and address the revision during the next board meeting on Jan. 9.

In other business: The board approved the reapplication of Fireweed Academy Charter School, Aurora Borealis Charter School and Soldotna Montessori Charter School.

Logan Tuttle is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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