Homer schools gain students at start of year

Homer area schools are seeing an unexpected increase in enrollment from previous years at the start of the 2016-17 school year.

McNeil Canyon Elementary started the first day of school with 127 students enrolled, 20 children more than the 107 projected enrollment for the year, said McNeil Canyon Principal Pete Swanson. This is an uptick for the school which has experienced declining enrollment in the last few years.

“The declining enrollment we have had has been based on numbers of kindergartners coming in and the last few years kindergarten has been less than 15 kids. We had one class just a couple years ago that was 11. The district looks at that number and then the number of sixth graders that you’ve got and in those years of having small kindergartens coming in I’ve had large sixth-grade classes going out. This year was an exception. We have 15 sixth graders and so it’s kind of even in terms of that,” Swanson said. “This year is not an exception in the sense of gaining kids, but it’s twice the amount of kids we’re picking up. Usually we pick up about 10 kids other than our kindergarten class.”

Fireweed Academy reported an increase in enrollment with 105 students set to attend the charter school as of Aug. 17. Fireweed Academy had 85 students enrolled in the previous school year, however new principal Todd Hindman was told to expect the increase, he said.

Homer High School also fell into their projected enrollment of 380 students, with 379 students enrolled during the first week of school. The 2015-16 school year ended with 352 students, said Homer High School Principal Doug Waclawski. The hope is that they won’t lose students as the year continues as the population of the high school can fluctuate due to students dropping out as well as students who change schools or move out of the area.

Chapman School has 131 students, including their 18 pre-kindergarten students. They have 19 students more than the previous year, which was comprised of 102 K-6 students and 10 pre-kindergartners. Their projected enrollment for the 2016-17 year anticipated 131 students — 111 K-6 students and 20 pre-kindergartners — which totals to the same numbers, but they have two more students in K-6 and two less in pre-kindergarten.

“I’m pleased that our schools on the southern peninsula are seeing a bump in enrollment and hope that we will be able to maintain it,” wrote Chapman School Principal Conrad Woodhead in an Aug. 24 email. “Chapman School can be anywhere in upwards of 20-30 percent transient, so I’ll be very interested in seeing if we can maintain our growth. In the world of education, good things happen when enrollment increases, so it’s exciting to see.”

Anna Frost can be reached at anna.frost@homernews.com.