Revenues are looking up at Island School where backers have rushed to fill the budget gap created by a low student count.
Up next: a major fundraiser that has become one of the island's favorite parties with the Dixie Highway Show Band. The Tarpon Ball generated a record $56,250 with its Western-themed roundup the first week in March last year. This Tarpon Ball will continue to focus on cowboys and cowgirls with an earlier Feb. 25 date.
The Tarpon Ball offers only 250 tickets so another sellout is likely, school officials say. If so, the financial pressure has eased a bit for the school despite two straight down seasons for enrollment.
"We're having an exceptional year," said Treasurer Skip Branin at the Feb. 2 School Board meeting. His six-month operating summary through Jan. 31 showed an $82,261 surplus compared with a $50,982 deficit through the first quarter.
Annual giving by Island School backers helped turn the fiscal tide with $166,172 in donations compared with the $70,000 projected budget.
Margo Freeman, Island School Board president, said the misperception persists that the tuition-free Island School is a private school. It's a charter school but open to all students who live on the island or have parents who work on the island full-time.
What: Island School Tarpon Ball
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25
Where: Amory Chapel grounds
Why: major school fundraiser
KEY ISLAND SCHOOL DATES
Feb. 25: Tarpon Ball
Amory Chapel Grounds, 6 p.m.
March 3: Cart Cookout
Cart wash and cookout, at The Island School, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
March 1: Island School Board
At The Island School, 3:30 p.m.
March 17: Bike Parade
At The Island School, 10 a.m.
March 24-25: Relay for Life
Relay for Life, at The Island School, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
April 12: Island School Board
Annual meeting at The Island School, 3:30 p.m.
May 4: Field Day
Leave the Island School, 9 a.m.
May 10: Mother's Day Tea
At the Island School, 9 a.m.
May 21: Portfolio Day
At the Island School, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
May 24: Graduation Day
At the Island School, TBA
Island School Board
Chairwoman Margo Freeman, past-Chair Carol Stewart, Treasurer Skip Branin, Tammi Miller, Mary Van Lokeren, Danni Ervin, Emily Wise, Mary Keevil and Donna Lutton.
Island School enrollment
Kindergarten: nine students
First-second grades: 14
Third grade: three
Fourth-fifth grades: 14
Maximum allowable: 58
"People still think we're a private school and we're not," Freeman said.
Enrollment remains at a cyclical low point. Just 40 elementary-age students fill 58 available seats. Each student equals roughly $10,000 in tuition and related revenues so the 18 open seats represent about $180,000 in lost potential revenues.
Principal Rosa Ramos said enrollment usually grows when the island season begins and Boca Grande businesses hire new employees who have school-age children. That did not happen this season.
The Island School was 13 students short of capacity at graduation in 2010. Reduced tuition revenue created a budget deficit when enrollment settled at 45 students.
Operating under a charter from the Lee County School District, The Island School receives some of its operating costs from the Lee County Board of Education but must raise the difference between county funding and the real cost of a student's education.