Local News

First student count signals less money for schools

The school year has begun for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District, and at Wednesday’s regular meeting, the School Board will hear about the expected student count and how it could mean less money for the district.

In his report to the Board, Superintendent Robert Boyle writes that the school district could face an almost $350,000 shortfall in state funding for the coming year. That loss would be due to how many students attend public school, and where.

Although schools such as Kayhi and Tongass School of Arts and Sciences gained more than 30 students each, others such as Houghtaling Elementary and Revilla lost some.

Ultimately, the student count on the first day of school was seven more than what the district had projected.

The rub comes when one looks at how students are counted. Because while money for charter schools, like Tongass School, does get added to the larger district pool initially, it’s dedicated to that school, not the district. So, Tongass School will see a net financial benefit, but the district will lose $154,000 of anticipated revenue.

The second factor is the “intensive” student count. Those special education students need more in terms of services and staffing than others, so they receive more state funding.

Although the district will have only three fewer intensive students than it had projected, that difference will mean $224,000 less than anticipated.

Boyle’s letter to the school board strikes an optimistic tone about how the budget hole could be filled: The student count could change in the next few weeks; the district anticipates another two intensive students; and other revenue, from reserves and savings on less staffing, could help to bolster the district’s finances.

Boyle says it is a bit early in the budgetary process to raise an alarm on the student count.

The Board will also vote whether to approve purchase of 60 iPads and MacBook Air computers at a cost of about $60,000. Two teaching contracts are on the agenda, as well as a contract for physical therapy services from Sweetman Physical Therapy.

The School Board meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Borough Assembly Chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start and end of the meeting.

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