More than 50 members of the Hope community attended a recent meeting with Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones to discuss the future of Hope School.
There are 16 school-age children in Hope, but only eight attend the public school. The majority of the remaining half are enrolled in correspondence programs.
With a count of less than 10 at the end of October's 20-day count period, Hope has been facing the prospect of closure, but the community is searching for a way to keep the school open.
A short-term solution to the problem is increasing the enrollment number by procuring contractual agreements from parents saying that their children will attend Hope at least through the count period in October 2008. At the meeting, a total of 13 parents agreed to do so, making Hope eligible for more funding.
With a student body of less than 10, Hope receives less federal funding and will have caused a deficit of $300,000 for the school district by the end of this school year. According to Jones, if the count is under 10 again next year, the board will recommend closure of the school at the end of the count period rather than waiting until the end of the school year in order to avoid another $300,000 loss.
But Jones believes the count will stay above 10 with the contractual agreements.
"We've solved the short-term issue," he said. "I feel confident that we will have the 10-count of students for next year."
Now the focus is on finding a long-term solution and board members are wondering why half the school-age children in Hope are not involved in the school.
"Over the years there have been some incidents that have got parents and students crossways with staff," Jones said.
Sunni Hilts, school board treasurer, would like to see Hope school develop programs that make it more appealing than home-schooling, where students have opportunities to wake up later and finish classes faster.
"We need to offer a program that has something more than book work," Hilts said. "(It's about) getting kids together in a way that stimulates them to get on with their education."
Another issue with Hope is that the population may not be large enough to support its own school.
"Look at the amount of young children in the community. There's not a lot of them," said Jones. "One of the problems with Hope is that there's no land for people to move there. The borough has been very active in trying to open some of that land up (to increase population)."
There is concern among board members that many families would have to relocate in the event of a Hope school closure. This also raises the question of what could happen in other small communities like Cooper Landing.
"This isn't Hope sitting out there by itself," Jones said. "We have a lot of other communities sitting out there."
Hannahlee Allers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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