Low enrollment may squeeze school funding

Posted: Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Juneau public schools could lose up to $250,000 in state funds if enrollments don't rise by October, school district officials said.

Schools Superintendent Gary Bader said enrollments are lower than projected, especially in some elementary schools. The school district's budget is based on those projections. Actual state funding is determined by the average number of students enrolled during 20 days in October.

Bader told the Juneau School Board on Tuesday that if the low enrollments don't increase, the district would lose $200,000 to $250,000 in state funds.

The district is working on a way to deal with the shortage and expects to meet with the employee unions, Bader said. Not all of the district's jobs for the coming school year have been filled.

"We're looking at the vacancies we have and the certificates of people and what we could do with them," Bader said today.

The budget was based on projections of 5,614 students, which would lead to $20.67 million in state funds, out of a total operating budget of nearly $37.9 million.

But enrollments in the elementary and middle schools combined are 145 students fewer than the projected 3,890, Bader said. Enrollment at Yaakoosge Daakahidi, the alternative high school program, is 30 fewer than anticipated.

But Juneau-Douglas High School is up by 143 students, from a projected 1,614 to 1,757 enrolled, said Principal Deb Morse.

The ups and downs in enrollments at the different schools would seem to even out roughly. But smaller schools, such as elementary schools, get more state funding per student than do larger schools, such as the high school.

It's possible reduced enrollments could force the school district to give back some city funds because of a state-imposed cap on local funding. Part of city funding equals 23 percent of a figure that includes state funds. If state funding goes down enough, without a reduction in city money, it would put the amount of city funding over the cap. Bader said he doesn't think it will come to that.

The high school enrollment is up mainly because of an influx of students from Juneau Christian School, which isn't offering a high school program this year, said JDHS Principal Deb Morse.

As a result, some classes in English and math will have several more students than previously expected, she said.

Juneau Christian School staff declined to comment.

Some elementary and middle schools are at or close to their projected enrollments, and students are still enrolling, and will do so even after Labor Day, principals said.

Floyd Dryden Middle School today had 36 fewer students enrolled than projected.

"Our enrollment is down, but we are registering new students every day," said Principal Sue Clifton. "We're hoping for a lot more. I'm threatening to stand on the corner and solicit kids to come in."

School enrollments in Juneau rose in all but one year from 1988-99, adding about 1,200 students in that period. But the numbers have ebbed since then by about 100 students.

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