Downward Trend Continues in School Enrollment

     There are fewer students attending school in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District this year compared to last year. The district has released its official enrollment count as required by the state. But looking at specific schools shows a mixed bag of increases and decreases.

     Each school district must do what’s called a Twenty-Day count for the state Department of Education. Buildings and bodies go into the formula to determine how much money each district gets. According to district enrollment numbers, the average number of students over those 20 days was about 8,760. That was 111 students off from the district’s projections for the year. KPBSD Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones said that number surprised him.

     “I was pretty unhappy because I thought I did a pretty poor job projecting the kids that were going to be out there. When we got to looking at where those 111 kids lived, we were short three kids that we projected in our brick-and-mortar schools… we were pretty right on with where we were going to be. That means in our home schools we were minus 108,” he said. 

     He said changes in the rules that regulate homeschooling at the state level likely played a part in the decline. Jones expected this to be a one-time only type of drop, but the district is still projecting fairly conservatively for the Connections program next year.

     The district also has an overall population projection for each of the schools over the next five years. This is something officials do every year. Jones said looking ahead to the 2014-2015 school year is required by the state, but the district likes to extend the outlook to know what’s coming. 

     “Next year’s projections are taken on the students that are sitting in the seats now and we move the seniors out and we moved kindergartners in. In the bigger schools we move them in based on a three-year average. When we’re in Nanwalek, basically the principal talks to the community and the community tells him there will be four kindergartners next year,” he said. 

     Next year the district is expecting an enrollment averaging at 8,773 students. 

     “So we’re actually projecting 13 more than we had in the classroom this year. Our kindergarten classes are slightly larger the last few years and there are a few more kids coming in than going out,” Jones said. 

     By the 2018-2019 school year, the district expects to be down 43 kids. Jones said even though the population on the Kenai Peninsula has been steadily growing and will likely continue to grow, it’s skewing older. 

     The schools that saw some of the larger population declines compared to last year were Mountain View Elementary and Soldotna Middle. Skyview High School lost 62 students last year bringing its total population to about 260. Soldotna High School saw the biggest increase with 59 more students. 

     The district will use these numbers while working through the budget for next year. Officials are already planning to cut a little more than $1 million out of its general fund. That process has already started and will continue through the spring.