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District enrollment expected to continue downward


The members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education got a glimpse into the future Monday night. Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones presented projected enrollments through the year 2025.
    And though there are a few upticks projected, they are part of a decades-long decline in student population on the Kenai Peninsula.
    School Board President Penny Vadla asked Jones about the trend.
    “Do we go up in Fiscal Year 20, and then we take another jump up and then a jump up and then a jump down?,” Vadla asked.
    “Yes, that's that's what we're looking at,” Jones said.
    “And that's just prediction?”
    “Yeah, it's a prediction,” Jones said. “And some of that is is that if you if you look in recent years at our at our younger classes, we have more there.”
    The projection predicts a 1.74 percent loss of students next school year, just less than the current year’s loss of 1.77 percent. For the three school years after that, there are the modest increases Vadla asked about, but they won’t quite make up for next year’s loss. And then projecting five years out, another loss of 0.32 percent.
    Student enrollment would go from 8,725 this school year, to 8,685 in the 2024-25 school year.
    “I think it's important for people to look at the model that we use. And what we try and do to project a future is, is we look at the current students in our buildings, move all the students are currently there forward one year, and then we use a, to predict kindergarteners, we use a three year average,” Jones said of the trend calculation methodology. “We also try and consult with our principals in areas if they have little better knowledge of things. So we try and we do that. That's how we project FYI 21, then we continue to do that for each of the next four years to give us an idea of where we're looking at.”
    Jones did acknowledge it wasn’t a perfect system, as some students will seek extra credit online.
    “I think if you look at at the Connections School, that methodology doesn't necessarily work for Connections because Connections. population of seniors, juniors and seniors, grows as people in high school want to take more advantage of that to get their credits,” he said.
    The biggest change would come to Soldotna High School, which is currently under capacity with 685 students. But by the 2024-25 school year, a projected 887 students will be enrolled there, putting it at 11 percent over capacity. K-Beach Elementary will still be over capacity in five years if the projection holds true, even though its enrollment is expected to shrink. The same is expected for Razdolna and Nanwalek schools.
    In 1998 district enrollment was 10,384, which at the time represented 21.5 percent of all Kenai Peninsula Borough residents — more than one in five. In 2018, student enrollment had shrunk to 8,895, while the borough’s population has increased, with students now only representing one-in-six residents.
    Over all, the student population has shrunk 14.34 percent in the past 20 years, and is a trend projected to continue.