Schools see enrollment increase

ERHS makes the most gains


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Students leave Eagle River High School on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. The school has an enrollment of 894, an increase of 59 students over last year.

Star photo by Mike Nesper

Local Anchorage School District schools saw a boost this year, as enrollment is up at each level throughout Chugiak-Eagle River.

Excluding Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, eight of the 12 local schools saw increases from the 2011-12 school year — with total enrollment up at the elementary, middle and high schools.

Eagle River High saw the largest increase, adding nearly 60 students from its total of 835 that were enrolled as of September 2011.

“We’ve been consistently just over 900 for most of the fall,” said principal Marty Lang.

The school’s large military population — 46 percent of ERHS students come from military families — is a major reason for the increase, Lang said.

“We saw a greater influx of high school age military kids,” he said.

Military students account for about 62 percent of Gruening Middle School’s population, which principal Bobby Jefts attributed to the addition of nearly 40 more students than last year.

“Luckily, we have a lot of support services,” he said.

With such a high transient rate, it’s difficult to predict Gruening’s enrollment each year, Jefts said. But, he said, having more kids than anticipated is positive for Gruening.

“It’s a really good problem to have,” Jefts said.

Mirror Lake Middle School also saw gains. About 25 additional Coyotes are roaming the halls this year, said principal Sherry Ellers.

No one grade saw larger gains than any other, she said.

“Our grades are pretty consistent across the board,” Ellers said. “We don’t have an influx in one or the other.”

Alpenglow Elementary has gained about 40 students from the start of this year, a trend principal Patrick Garrity saw in 2011.

Last year, the school started with 540 students and gained 50 more by the year’s end, he said.

“Last year, we peaked at 590,” Garrity said.

By this week, Garrity expects Alpenglow to have 580 students and anticipates reaching 590 by May 2013. Like Gruening and Eagle River, Alpenglow’s sizeable military population (60 percent) creates large shifts in enrollment, Garrity said.

Birchwood ABC also saw a boost in students with about 20 more than last year, brining its current enrollment to 345.

“That’s a tremendous gain for us because we’re a smaller school,” said principal Tim Godfrey.

Birchwood had just 323 students in September 2011, the second smallest population behind Eagle Academy Charter School with 172.

As of September 2012, Eagle Academy dropped to 161 students. Homestead Elementary lost 15 students for a total of 310, and Ravenwood Elementary has 414, down from 434 last year.

Chugiak High, which lost nine students, was the only other local school that saw its enrollment decrease this year.

Birchwood’s biggest surprise was the boost its sixth-grade class received.

Dwindling class size put the school at risk of losing its sixth-graders, Godfrey said. But this year, Birchwood has 29 students enrolled in sixth grade.

“It was a blessing to get that many,” Godfrey said. “That’s a pretty good-sized class.”

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