Enrollment spike surprises JDHS staff

Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2004

Juneau-Douglas High School administrators were scrambling Wednesday, the first day of school, to find classes for all students.

The enrollment of high school students, including at the alternative program, was about 100 more than projected, said Juneau School District Superintendent Peggy Cowan.

That figure may go up or down in the next week as students return from vacations or the district learns that some students have moved from Juneau.

Yaakoosge Daakahidi, the alternative high school, was at capacity with 90 students, about 30 more than it usually enrolls this time of year, Cowan said.

In all, 5,316 students were enrolled in the public schools Wednesday. That figure doesn't include preschool classes, which haven't started yet, and the classroom at Johnson Youth Center, a state juvenile jail, or the district's "cyber" homeschool program.

On Friday, the district added more course sections at JDHS by extending the contracted hours of some current teachers. Officials are reviewing whether they need to add further sections. If enrollment remains up, it will generate enough state funds to pay for the new sections, Cowan said. The state bases its funding on the average enrollments in October.

"We will definitely add the classes we need to meet the needs of kids," Cowan said. "We've added some and we'll figure out the additional adjustments."

Assistant Superintendent Bernie Sorenson, who was helping out at JDHS on Wednesday, said it's normal to have to adjust schedules for students.

"What seems different is we definitely have more freshmen than we had last year," she said. "That is the piece that is causing the bottleneck."

Cowan said the freshman enrollment is the hardest to predict because some students from private schools and outlying villages start attending public schools in Juneau in freshman year.

The district's consultant who projects enrollment knows the size of the previous year's eighth-grade class, but he can't be sure who else will join the class in freshman year, she said.

Also on Friday, the district transferred a teacher from Mendenhall River Community School to Harborview Elementary, which had 24 more students than expected.

Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School had 22 more students than projected, partly because it now houses a program for emotionally disturbed children. Besides the teacher for the special program, the school received a part-time teaching position, which it used for physical education, Cowan said.

The district makes those personnel changes before the school year starts because it doesn't want to disrupt classes, she said.

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