Low enrollment equals $287K loss for JSD

The official October enrollment figure submitted to the Alaska Department of Education shows the Juneau School District missed the mark on projected enrollment — and the district’s budget will suffer for it.

“We ended up, unfortunately, almost 28 kids short of projection,” JSD Superintendent Mark Miller said during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting at Thunder Mountain High School.

The projected enrollment was 4,758 students. Of that 28-student drop, 24 students were missing from the Juneau Community Charter School’s expected enrollment. Montessori Borealis, projected to have 170 students its first year, exceeded 175 students.

Gastineau Elementary School lost 54 students, the greatest year-to-year drop in a single school.

Financially, this absence in the classroom equals a loss in funding by the state. Per enrolled student, the district receives a base student allocation of $5,880. Based on the 28-student drop, the district will see a reduction of $233,848, and the City and Borough of Juneau’s appropriation will decline by $53,400.

The Department of Education and Early Development will give a final verification after comparing students statewide to account for those who may have moved.

If the state education department approves the enrollment figures, this will mark a continued 15-year declining enrollment pattern in Juneau.

Teachers union contract approved

The school board unanimously voted to approve of the union contract between the Juneau Education Association and the district. However, not all board members expressed excitement over the finalized product that includes a 2 percent salary increase.

Board member Emil “Robert” Mackey said he was concerned the contract did not do much in the way of ensuring class sizes would decrease, or at the very least stay where they currently are.

“I’m extremely concerned we’re on a non-sustainable path that’s not good for kids, not good for teachers and it’s not good for the district,” Mackey said.

Board member Barbara Thurston said she was voting to approve the contract even though after reading it she didn’t agree with the final mark up.

“Hopefully we’ll find a way to afford (the new contract) without eliminating too many teaching positions,” Thurston said.

JEA President Dirk Miller was on hand to express his delight with the interest-based bargaining (IBB) technique used during negotiations that he said made the process peaceful compared to years past.

“No one got everything they wanted, but we’re happy,” he said.

JSD human resources manager Ted Van Bronkhorst reminded the board that the contract is a one-year only contract and both sides will return to negotiations in January.

Specialists needed

Before the board’s regular meeting, the representatives from area elementary schools and district officials presented board members with a crash course in full-time equivalent (FTE) specialist needs across the district, another area of concern with budget cuts possibly on the horizon.

Representatives from each school, mostly principals, explained how thinly spread school specialists are and how it creates limits on time spent for music and physical activities at each site.

Director of Teaching and Learning Ted Wilson said with the drafting of a new district budget on the horizon, the presentation served as a way for board members to put into perspective what changes to FTE ratios can mean in the real-world classroom settings.

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or at paula.solis@juneauempire.com.

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