Overall enrollment in the Ketchikan School District appears to be meeting expectations, although the distribution of students is uneven.
Superintendant Robert Boyle told the School Board on Wednesday that it’s challenging to predict and plan for Ketchikan’s school enrollment each year.
Boyle said the current overall projection of 2,095 students is slightly less than the budget estimate, but that doesn’t include preschool students.
“When that’s added into it, then we meet or exceed our projections, so we feel real solid right now as far as those numbers go,” he said.
Elementary enrollment numbers reported in the board packet show 295 students at Houghtaling, 239 at Fawn Mountain, 234 at Point Higgins, 164 at Ketchikan Charter School, and 129 at Tongass School of Arts and Sciences.
Boyle’s report showed that 304 students are enrolled at Schoenbar Middle School, 546 at Ketchikan High School, and 86 at Revilla Alternative School.
Boyle said Fawn Mountain might pass the 250 level by the time school starts.
For funding purposes, the best population for a school to maintain is between 150 and 250 students. Below or above that means less money per student.
Boyle said Point Higgins Elementary School has seen growth in the last few years, but likely won’t go over 250.
“At one time they were below 200, so it’s been a steady rebound in the number of students out at Point Higgins,” he said. “We believe we have a pretty accurate guess at it at this point. I said guess instead of a projection. It’s been kind of like throwing darts at times, the numbers have changed so much year to year.”
If Tongass School remains below the 150 mark, it faces a potential revenue loss of $90,000. As a charter school, the Tongass board would have to adjust its budget accordingly. Business Manager Matthew Groves said that school has about $60,000 in carryover funds that might help make up for the shortfall.
Boyle noted that enrollment could change once school starts.
Houghtaling Elementary School was to have two kindergarten classes, but after 54 kindergarteners enrolled there, the School Board opted Wednesday to add a third class.
Board Member Roseanne Lynch spoke against hiring a new teacher for that purpose. She said the district could direct parents to schools with lower enrollment.
“As we started to talk about earlier, we have TSAS, whose numbers are very low. Houghtaling’s numbers are very high. We can cap enrollment,” she said. “I asked for information about what this means to the district.”
Board Member Stephen Bradford said the district can’t tell parents their children need to attend a charter school.
“The options if they don’t choose to go to the charter schools is one of the three elementary schools that we have, and I’m not ready to start dictating which of the three they have to go to based on numbers,” he said.
The motion to hire a new teacher passed 5-1 with Lynch voting no. Board Member Dave Timmerman was absent.
Also on Wednesday, the School Board approved the district’s six-year capital improvement plan, with about $5.5 million worth of projects.
Borough voters will decide Oct. 2 whether to approve a bond proposition to help pay for the projects, which should all qualify for state 70-percent reimbursement grants.
Also Wednesday, the board cancelled the second meeting this month, which had been scheduled for Aug. 22.