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Enrollment shortfall may cause major budget cuts

Posted: September 12, 2013 - 3:59pm  |  Updated: September 13, 2013 - 12:07am

There are more empty desks in Juneau classrooms than the Juneau School District expected, and the shortfall means major budget cuts are likely.

Enrollment projections for the 2013-2014 school year had 4,936 students in Juneau schools, but the preliminary tally on Sept. 6 revealed that only 4,848 students were enrolled.

That 88-student difference may end up costing the district more than $650,000 from the state and city because funding is based on enrollment.

The projection process is the same the district has been using for years, but this year a new firm was employed, Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich said.

“We are going to look at ways to make sure every student who is eligible is back, and that we understand as much as we can about students who are not enrolled,” Gelbrich said.

The biggest discrepancy in actual versus projected enrollment came from Floyd Dryden Middle School, where the number of students enrolled was 33 fewer than officials projected.

Harborview Elementary and the Homebridge program also had shortfalls of 24 students each, and Gastineau Community School was 18 students shy of its projection.

The high schools exceeded enrollment expectations by eight students at Juneau-Douglas and 17 at Thunder Mountain.

There is still time for the numbers to even out and for the district to dodge more budget cuts, but for that to happen, the 88-student shortfall would have to be rectified by the end of next month.

Enrollment “could go up, or it could also go down,” Gelbrich said.

The budget reductions would be separate from the $1.2 million cut from the district’s budget last spring. The school board will mull over where to cut the money at a work session on Sept. 23, Gelbrich added.

“It will have an impact; it will be significant,” he said of the potential reduction. “We’ll try to protect the investment in the classroom. That will be hard, but that will be the priority.”

Gelbrich said the looming budget cuts did not affect the school board’s recent decision to ban middle school sports travel, but that there are “budgetary implications related to travel.”

Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at matthew.woolbright@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reportermatt.

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