By Lilly Milman

With more students expected when Skagway School opens Aug. 15, particularly in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, the school may not need fifth graders to fill out junior high sports teams this year.

The decision on whether or not fifth graders will be eligible for junior high activities will be made at the school board meeting Aug. 27.

In the past, fifth graders have helped fill out team rosters for junior high sports. Without the younger students, the school would not have been able to fill out a junior high basketball team, School Superintendent Joshua Coughran said. However, now that it looks like more students will be enrolled in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, the junior high sports teams may no longer need the extra numbers, he said.

The exact number of students in each grade remains unclear until October, due to the number of seasonal families that enroll their children in school temporarily. In Alaska, state school funding is based on the student count, which is submitted to the state during a 20-day window in October. The student count differs from the high point of enrollment, which includes students who only were temporarily enrolled.

Each year, between eight and 12 students attend Skagway School in August and September and then withdraw before the window in October. This number is not as dramatic as it used to be, Coughran said. While there are a few families that have done this for multiple years, many of the students who will only be attending school for a couple of months are new to the school, he said.

Both the student count and the high point have steadily grown since the 2014-15 school year. Last year, the student count was 122, a significant increase from the 114 the year prior.

The biggest change the school made to accommodate growth in the past four years was switching to single-grade classrooms, Coughran said. Before a few years ago, multiple grade-levels would share one classroom and one teacher.

Other changes made in recent years include larger lockers for students and the purchase of more cost-efficient technology. For example, the school switched to Google Chromebook laptops for elementary school students this year, a decision made with the larger class sizes in mind. Because the computers are much less expensive than the Apple technology used in previous years, the school can better afford the costs of technology for the increased number of students.