Gastineau enrollment falls short

One teacher shifted to Mendenhall River
Stella Tallmon, 10, watches her sister, Sydney Hood, 5, swing across the new playground equipment at Gastineau Community School on Monday.

Juneau School District students typically must eagerly await finding out who their teacher and classmates are until the week before school starts, but students at Gastineau Community School this year didn’t know until the evening before.

District Chief of Staff Kristin Bartlett said the delay can be chocked up to a discrepancy between predicted enrollment at the school and actual enrollment numbers it’s seen since Aug. 8. This year, the school is getting about 20 students fewer than predicted, sitting at about 270, Bartlett said.

In the Juneau district, the target number of students per teacher is 22 for kindergarten through second-grade and 26.5 for third- through fifth-grade, Bartlett said. However, class sizes can fluctuate somewhat around these numbers. For this reason, one Gastineau teacher was transferred to Mendenhall River Community School, which has an enrollment 15 students higher than expected, Bartlett said. Mendenhall River has an enrollment of about 380.

Staffing is based on enrollment projections the district does in the spring, Bartlett said. Because these were off at Gastineau and Mendenhall River, Gastineau ended up with one more teacher than necessary, and Mendenhall River ended up with one less. Staff can’t be shuffled until the district gets a good idea of how many students schools will actually have, hence the late notice for Gastineau students. Usually, this isn’t a problem — projections and actual enrollment typically line up, Bartlett said.

“It’s really hard to know in advance that we’re going to have fluctuations in enrollments,” Bartlett said. “We do need that same number of teachers because our overall (district-wide) enrollment hasn’t declined significantly.”

Bartlett said Juneau schools will monitor enrollment during the first week to make sure projections are stable.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com.

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