Anchorage School District projects $15 million loss due to lowered student enrollment

a person swinging on a swingset
A student flies high on a swing during recess at Dena’ina Elementary School in Wasilla in September. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage School District faces a loss of $15.2 million as a result of lower than expected student enrollment according to the district’s finance team, which presented a report to the Anchorage School Board finance committee Monday.   

Most of the district’s funding comes from student enrollment, which declined more than 9% this year. 

The decrease was a worry for leaders early in the school year as the district worked to deliver education during the pandemic. Many families have left the district in favor of private school programs or statewide homeschool programs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report says.

RELATED: Anchorage homeschool programs fill and waitlists grow as the school year begins 

The Anchorage School District has been using virtual and distance learning since March, despite at least three different attempts to resume in-person learning. 

RELATED: Anchorage School District postpones start of in-person learning 

Funding for the district is stable right now, Chief Financial Officer Jim Anderson said in the meeting.

“We have the funds to operate this year,” Anderson said. ”We’re continuing to move forward. We’re continuing to push even more PPE and other safety devices at the schools and we’re funded to operate this year.” 

The district’s long-term budget outlook, however, is grim. The report projects a budget shortfall of $30-40 million for the next fiscal year and $60-70 million over the next three years which will “result in the elimination of up to 750 positions in order to close the fiscal gap and balance budgets.” 

Superintendent Deena Bishop noted that while the district was able to avoid layoffs this school year, they will be harder to avoid in the coming years. 

“Moving into the new budget year, we’re less assured of remaining the same,” Bishop said in the meeting. “Given that our budget is over 90 percent human resources, we may be impacting human resources and having to make some of those decisions.”