Low counts jeopardize class funds

Posted: Friday, September 01, 2000

Juneau public school enrollments are down by 50 students and could go lower by the end of an official count period in October, imperiling several hundred thousand dollars in anticipated state funds.

The elementary schools have 100 fewer students than projected, and the middle schools are down by about 50 students. Juneau-Douglas High School is up by about 100 students.

Altogether, the district had 5,564 students enrolled by late this week. It had projected - and budgeted - to have 5,614 students.

The deficit of 50 students is made worse by the way the state funds schools. It gives more money per student for small schools, such as Juneau's elementary schools, than for larger schools, such as JDHS.

Schools Superintendent Gary Bader said current enrollment would cost the district about $200,000 in state funds. But he's also concerned the number of students could drop by the official count period in October because some families move out of state after getting the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.

"I think we have to anticipate losing another 50 kids in the count, just following patterns in previous years," Bader said. That could leave the total budget deficit at about $400,000.

That deficit could be met by the district's fund balance and from savings from a few unexpected retirements where staffers were replaced by lower-paid new hires, Bader said.

To deal with the ups and downs in enrollments, the district has moved three elementary or middle school teachers from schools with low enrollments to other elementary positions, Bader said.

Auke Bay Elementary, which is up 23 students, will get one more teacher, officials decided this morning. The equivalent of an additional teacher will be added at JDHS, which has large classes in math and English, Bader said. It will allow for two more sections each of math and English.

Some of the new JDHS students have come from Juneau Christian School, which canceled its high school classes, JDHS officials have said. But it's not clear why other schools are up or down from projections, Bader said.

Floyd Dryden Middle School is down by 43 students, while Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School is down by only three students. Although Auke Bay Elementary is up, the other five elementary schools are down.

Harborview Principal Bob Dye said fewer kindergartners enrolled than were projected at his school.

Two Montessori schools said today they didn't have more kindergartners this year. But Juneau Montessori School in Douglas has nine kindergartners this year, up from three or four last year, said director Lupita Alvarez.

Additionally, the district's new home-school program has enrolled 19 elementary or middle-school-age children who aren't counted in the regular enrollments. The state funds those children at 80 percent of the usual amount. Bader said the district would have lost those students entirely without a home-school program to offer them.

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