Enrollment is higher than expected for Juneau schools

Posted: Sunday, August 28, 2005

Enrollment in Juneau schools this year is slightly higher than originally projected, which administrators say indicates financial stability.

The boost was not a surprise to school officials, Juneau School District Superintendent Peggy Cowan said. And while the count isn't yet official, the estimate of 5,323 students gives officials hope that they've budgeted adequately based on the state's per-pupil formula.

"The numbers reflect that basically we're in a sound financial situation (for state funding) because we're at or above our projected enrollment," she said.

Previously, an independent demographer had projected the enrollment at 5,275.

Last year the district counted 5,316 students during the first week and 5,305 later in the fall, 43 below its projection. That cost the schools $183,454 in anticipated state funds.

Cowan said the elementary numbers this year are slightly down from the original projection; the middle school is very close to its projection; and the high schools have seen slightly higher enrollment.

Juneau-Douglas High School had 1,752 enrolled on Friday, up from its original projection of 1,681. Yaakoosge Daakahidi alternative high school had 130 students enrolled as of Friday, up significantly from the original projection of 92 students.

Cowan said the statistics do not necessarily reflect the actual number of students attending class the first week of school, but rather the number of students who have registered for school. She said some students who registered in the spring may have moved to different school districts or might not have shown up for the first week of classes.

Cowan said the projections are important because they help administrators plan for the number of teachers needed at each school.

Cowan said Glacier Valley and Riverbend elementary schools originally were going to lose one position each. Because the numbers reflect only a slight change the positions were kept in order to meet the lower teacher-to-student ratio plan put in place by the School Board, she said.

JDHS Principal Bernie Sorenson said because the enrollment numbers are up at the high school she has been adjusting teachers' schedules to accommodate the students. The school brought on a new English teacher this week and the district is hiring a new science teacher.

To further reduce class sizes, multiple JDHS teachers have taken on an extra class and are working more than full time, said Sorenson. Full-time teachers have five classes and one preparation period, she said.

Some teachers will now instruct six classes with no preparation period and will see a 20 percent pay increase, Cowan said.

"With these extra classes and teachers, we're now able to see classes of 26 to 30 (students). So that's a significant difference," Sorenson said. She said if the teachers' schedules had not been altered some classes could have had as many as 35 to 40 students attending.

"The teachers are making sacrifices and working hard to offer the extra sections that we need to add to the schedule to accommodate the extra students that are beyond what we had planned for initially," Cowan said.

Cowan said the final enrollment numbers will be determined by an adjusted daily count over a three-week period in October, which will ultimately determine the district's budget.

"We'll have our absolute count when we get word back from the Department of Ed(ucation) in November," she said.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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