Minimum 10 students expected to enroll in the fall

Posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2000

FALSE PASS (AP) -- School Superintendent Wes Knapp is keeping a close watch on fall enrollment in the Aleutians East Borough School District.

Enrollment for the 2000-2001 school year is expected to be 10 students -- the minimum required to fund the school.

If a school dips below the funding minimum, instead of receiving about $200,000 from the state, the district will receive $39,000 to educate nine students.

''If a community loses a school, you've really dealt that community a devastating blow,'' Knapp said.

The problem isn't confined to the Aleutians East School District. Nikolski School, in the Aleutian Region School District, spent this year with just 11 students, and is projected to have about that many again next year.

''It's always a question mark when you get down to a number like that,'' said Joe Beckford, superintendent for the Aleutian Region School District.

Knapp spent last year sweating over enrollments at schools in False Pass and Cold Bay. The 10-student minimum became critical last year, when a new education funding formula set the new enrollment floor.

But even if schools drop below the 10-student minimum for state funding, it doesn't necessarily mean they will close.

The Iditarod School District elected to keep Minchumina School open even though it did not qualify for funding from the state. Operating costs were absorbed from other parts of the district budget.

''It has to be the local school board's decision to close a school, not ours,'' said Harry Gamble, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. ''We aren't able to do that.''

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