Wrangell’s Front Street (Sage Smiley / KSTK)

This school year, Wrangell Public Schools reported the steepest percentage drop in student enrollment of any school district in Alaska. And that’s making it difficult for the district to set next year’s budget without deep cuts or layoffs, even as kids re-enroll.

In October, Wrangell reported 41% fewer students than the previous school year — according to numbers published by the state Department of Education. When the district reported its enrollment numbers to the state, there were just 183 students enrolled.

That’s a full 10% more of a drop than any other district in the state. The DOE uses enrollment to calculate its funding to school districts, and the majority of Wrangell’s school funding is tied to its student enrollment.

Wrangell’s school district has projected a much higher enrollment number next year than it currently has enrolled. And in the new year, students have been re-enrolling, mostly at Evergreen Elementary School. District-wide enrollment has jumped to 201 students, as of February 1.

The district has used those re-enrollments to budget for the coming year. But that still leaves a hole. Budget scenarios project up to a $140,000 deficit… and that’s after expending all of the district’s reserves. Other scenarios envision cutting salaries and benefits for some staff — or even entire positions. 

Wrangell Public Schools will hold a public hearing on its budget at 6:30 p.m. tonight. The meeting will be available via teleconference.

Get in touch with KSTK at news@kstk.org or (907) 874-2345.