Friday, November 23, 2007

Wishing it to be true does not make it so.

Numbers down for 10 districts
Eric Stevick Herald Writer

An enrollment drop in 10 of 14 Snohomish County districts has school leaders wondering where the students have gone.

Enrollment declined across the county by more than 300 students, slipping to 107,445, according to head counts taken by the districts last month. What's most perplexing is the dip is occurring while hundreds of new homes across the county are being built and moved into.

"We are all sort of in the same arena of scratching our heads," said Arlene Hulten, a Lake Stevens School District spokeswoman.

The districts expect enrollment will rebound as families with school-age children move into the new homes. For now, it may be that some families are passing up Snohomish County on their way to cheaper housing in surrounding areas. "The general trend is that there is small growth in Whatcom and parts of Skagit counties and there is a reduction in San Juan and Snohomish counties," said Jerry Jenkins, director of the Northwest Educational Service District. "I would suppose that the likely cause would be housing costs and that young people with families can stretch their dollars further."

Other factors are also suspected, including a slower birth rate in the county five years ago. Ten of 14 districts had a smaller kindergarten classes than a year ago. Statistics kept by the U.S. Census Bureau showed a drop of more than 1,500 school-aged children between the ages of 5 and 9 in Snohomish County between the years 2000 and 2006.

More students also are choosing online schools instead of the traditional classroom. The Edmonds School District surveyed families earlier this year and found more than 40 students who said they were planning to enroll in an online school this fall. Edmonds is now considering starting its own online program.

"That has happened a little bit," said Nathan Olson, a spokesman for the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. "In terms of a percentage, it's probably not much, but it is happening." The state does not have statewide enrollment numbers for fall. Projecting enrollment accurately is key for each district as more than 70 percent of its budget is based on the number of students in classrooms. Districts receive more than $5,000 from the state for each full-time student. Housing, birth rates, population trends and job losses all figure into projections.

In most districts, enrollment was flat with slight losses. The Edmonds School District experienced the most dramatic loss, dipping from 20,725 to 20,352. The loss of students can be costly. Edmonds estimates it lost about $1 million in state revenues because of declining enrollment. It won't fill some vacant positions but won't have to make layoffs either, according to a district memo.

Fun Factoid: The 2004-2009 Capital Facilities Plan predicted the dramatic decrease in enrollment, but alas, the conclusions were tossed aside by District management because their heads were buried in the sand.


Anonymous said...

If the loss was *only* 1M, why did they cut 4 - 5M from the budget?

Anonymous said...

Could the decline in enrollment have anything to do with parents sending their children to private schools? I personally know of several who have chosen this option because of the operational issues with administration at ESD #15. Many parents have attended Board meetings with concerns, only to be "shut out", or disregarded. Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...,
Can you do a poll on how many disgruntled employees there is at Edmonds School District? I think the outsiders/parents looking in would like to know this question.