School districts competing for students

Posted: Sunday, July 06, 2003

HOMER (AP) Homer area schools are facing increased competition from school districts trying to lure their students away.

Twelve of the state's 53 school districts are marketing their correspondence programs across the state, eager to catch the attention of parents who want to pick and choose how to educate their children.

Make that 13 programs, if you count Alyeska Central School, the state's distance education program that began in 1939, but has been tagged by the Legislature to disappear in a year.

Of the 136,000 students from kindergarten to high school in the state, approximately 9,000 are enrolled in these statewide programs, according to Barbara Thompson, director of the Alaska Division of Teaching and Learning Support.

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, the focus remains on providing quality education for students living within district boundaries, school officials said.

''We believe that the districts were created for a reason,'' said Donna Peterson, school district superintendent. ''If there is no recognition of boundaries, then there really is no need for 53 school districts with 53 superintendents.''

Peterson acknowledges being unable to convince other superintendents ''that they shouldn't do business in our school district.''

Joe Arness, school district board president, agreed with Peterson.

''I can only speak for me, but my feeling is that it's not the right thing to do,'' he said of recruiting students from other areas of the state. ''You need to be in the area. You need to have some kind of presence.''

The competition has forced the district to sharpen its marketing skills and to develop its own home school program, Connections, which currently has an enrollment of 600 students.

''We've just approached it, I guess, as a business would from the perspective of looking at what is out there, what is available to people, and then trying to make our program competitive,'' Arness said.

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