ANCHORAGE - Next school year, Kenai Middle School's art program will be axed, along with reading and math tutoring. Kids will have a harder time getting into electives such as drama and home economics, and class sizes will grown.
Until now, said principal Paul Sorenson, he could cobble together enough money to keep the programs humming, but a drop in state funding brought on by lower enrollment now leaves him helpless. "This time around, I'm not going to be able to hide those cuts," he said.
Schools throughout the Kenai Peninsula Borough face shrinking enrollments in elementary grades even as the peninsula's older adult population is growing.
"We've lost almost 700 students in the last four years, primarily in the early grades," said district Superintendent Donna Peterson.
District officials project that 9,725 students will attend district schools next year, down from a high of 10,384 in 1997. Between fewer students and an end to a federal grant to reduce class sizes, the district expects to lose 26 teaching positions.
The decline in numbers of kids and a corresponding drop in teachers started five years ago and could continue another five to 10 years, demographers say.