School enrollment is just about on track in Sitka. Superintendent Mary Wegner will report to the school board at its regular meeting Monday evening (11-4-19) that with 1,184 students enrolled — the district is just three students shy of projections for the year.
Given the district’s recent history, being only three students below projections is good news. Last year, the district missed its mark by 38 students.
Wegner says there is a lot of variability in trying to anticipate enrollment from year-to-year.
“Well we go through a protocol where we take a look at our actual numbers,” said Wegner. “We assume students are going to move up. We take out people who are leaving, such as Coast Guard families who are at the end of their three years. So we do some things like that. We started a couple of years ago. The first year we did it we were within one student from our projection, this year we’re within a handful. And it was last year that was unique and from talking with my superintendent colleagues around the state, it sounds like it was just a big hit around the state of decreased enrollment that was unexpected last year.”
The 38-student drop last year put Sitka in a budget bind. October is the month when the state formally counts enrollment in every school district for funding purposes, and the lower-than-expected numbers immediately threw Sitka into a $100,000 deficit. This year’s 3-student drop is almost insignificant by comparison; nevertheless, Wegner says she’s worried about school funding in general. Gov. Mike Dunleavy last year proposed a statewide cut to education of 25-percent. Under threat of recall, the governor has pulled back from that extreme, but Wegner says no one’s really sure what number he’ll land on.
Even though enrollment is holding, Wegner says uncertainty over the budget looms as large as ever.
“It will probably be another past-the-date in April when we have to have our final budget set, that we’ll know what the state is going to give us,” Wegner said. “We don’t know what the governor’s budget is going to look like. So there are just a lot of unknowns this year.”
Despite the good news that enrollment in Sitka is on track for the year, the total number enrolled is still lower than last year by about 17 students — continuing a downward trend seen in Sitka since the mid-90s.
The Sitka School Board will meet in regular session 6 p.m. Monday, November 4 in the Sitka High library.