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Three Homer schools will not receive Title I funding next fall

The front entrance of Paul Banks Elementary School on April 8, 2024. Paul Banks is one of three schools in Homer that will not receive Title I funds in the next school year.
Jamie Diep
The front entrance of Paul Banks Elementary School on April 8, 2024. Paul Banks is one of three schools in Homer that will not receive Title I funds in the next school year.

Six schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will not qualify for Title I funding next year. Fireweed Academy, Paul Banks and West Homer Elementary are among the six schools. The other three schools are Soldotna Elementary, K-Beach Elementary and Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science. The schools won’t receive the funding because the percentage of low-income students dropped.

Eric Pederson is the district’s director of elementary education, K-12 schools and federal programs. He said Title I funds go towards a variety of programs.

“A lot of our schools have developed plans that involve literacy, obviously, right now with the Alaska Reads Act,” he said, “or that could come in a number of ways from intervention supporting it through small group intervention to, you know, having a preschool program that serves, that serves students to catch them before they get into school.”

The funds are federal dollars that go to support schools with at least 40% of students from a low-income background. That percentage is primarily determined by the number of students who qualify for a school’s free and reduced lunch program.

Between this year and last year, the percentage of students who count as low income dropped as much as 11% at the three schools. Over the past five years, the schools have hovered around the 40% threshold. District-wide, that number decreased by over 6% this year, leaving the overall percentage of low- income students at around 38%. The district also doesn’t have any new schools that qualify for funding next year.

Paul Banks Elementary principal Sean Campbell said not getting the funding next year means they are losing staffing for intervention services.

We'll be creative in how we ensure that our students still receive intervention services, which they will,” he said, “and it combined with some other factors will mean that we will have one fewer classroom teachers at Paul Banks next year.”

Campbell said the intervention services run across a spectrum. Many of the services focus on reading and literacy support, where students get to work on those skills in a small group setting on top of what they learn in the classroom. In addition to staffing, Campbell said Title I funds also go toward events and programs the school holds to encourage learning.

“We do a number of different things to promote literacy in our building, including bingo for books, which is a really fun afternoon where kids play bingo, and they walk out of here with two brand-new books apiece. So that adds up when you have over 160 kids,” he said.

West Homer’s principal Eric Waltenbaugh said in an email that “we stand to lose a full time Title I interventionist position next year.” Fireweed Academy could not be reached for comment in time for this story.

While the schools falling under the threshold could mean that fewer students are in what is considered a low-income family, there are many factors that can affect those numbers. Things like how many families apply for free and reduced lunch can affect the percentage. Requirements also changed coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, when all students qualified for free and reduced lunch.

KPBSD federal programs coordinator Jessica Scogin said the increased number of students leaving schools to be homeschooled could have also played a role in the lower percentages.

“There's no way to know exactly if they were students that qualified or not, but that could be a factor in the overall percentage of the school's eligibility,” she said.

The three schools won’t qualify for the next school year, but they can qualify for the year after if they reach the 40% threshold again. Pederson said families can also apply for free and reduced lunch throughout the school year, even after the deadline for the district to collect information for qualifying for Title I funding.

“You can still qualify for free and reduced lunch, even though it may not qualify for the Title I until next year at that time, but you know, we want to definitely serve kids first and foremost,” he said.

Looking to the next school year, schools like Paul Banks will work on getting as many families as possible to fill out the application and maximize their chance of qualifying for funding again.

Jamie Diep is a reporter/host for KBBI from Portland, Oregon. They joined KBBI right after getting a degree in music and Anthropology from the University of Oregon. They’ve built a strong passion for public radio through their work with OPB in Portland and the Here I Stand Project in Taipei, Taiwan.Jamie covers everything related to Homer and the Kenai Peninsula, and they’re particularly interested in education and environmental reporting. You can reach them at to send story ideas.