Enrollment in Sitka’s schools is over projections, and could mean more money for the district if numbers stay up through next month.
Superintendent Mary Wegner reported to the Sitka School Board at its regular meeting Tuesday night (9-3-19) that the district had 1,197 students on the books, ten more than expected for the year.
Nevertheless she counseled caution, as the district was still receiving records requests from students enrolling elsewhere, whose names remain on Sitka class lists.
“We are tracking pretty good to our projected enrollment,” Wegner said, “but it’s still too soon to count on those ten extra students, but we’re very excited to see those ten extra students.”
The formal census — or “count period” — for Alaska’s schools comes in October. A boost in 10 students could mean an additional $100,000 in state funding for the district. But the opposite is also a possibility, if student numbers turn out to fall below projections — as has been the case in recent years.
District business manager Cassee Olin reported that both state and local funding had been received, allowing school to begin on schedule on August 22. But it was a close call, as the legislature and governor remain locked in a court battle over school appropriations.
Blatchley Middle School principal Ben White told the board that he was able to fully staff his building, with just hours to spare.
“Our Band and teacher was able to start on Tuesday,” White said. “That’s one-and-one-half days before the students came — so kind of a crunch time. And we were able to offer a contract to the new Science teacher Thursday at 4:30 p.m. and she had kids Friday morning at 8. And they had just rallied, and had been living at the school, but they’ve done a great job of putting their heads down and plowing through.”
The hire of a second new Science teacher one day before classes at Blatchley was due to the resignation of the Art teacher — who was replaced by a former Science teacher. White said that his veteran staff was providing exceptional support for these new teachers who were beginning their careers on extraordinarily short notice.
The school board was unable to authorize the last five new teacher hires until its meeting on August 13, when it also cut an IT support position, at a savings of about $70,000. Teachers reported to work on Thursday, August 15, and school opened a week later on the 22nd.