Big enrollment dip comes as a surprise

The school district will lose about $350,000 in state funding.

The school district is considering how to cope with funding shortfalls tied to an unexpected decrease in this year’s school enrollment.

The district is coming to terms with the shortfall of 78 students, – about 4 percent of the entire student body – leaveing the district short $350,000 for which it had budgeted.

Bainbridge Island School Disctrict Superintendent Ken Crawford said the district was unable to predict such a high percentage drop would occur.

“We had projected a slight decline, probably 20 students,” Crawford said. “As of Aug. 30 we were looking as if we were right on in terms of enrollment. Then we had 78 students registered that did not show up.”

State education funding to the district is tied to enrollment, and despite demographic studies, the district was caught off guard by the dip.

Crawford said such a significant decrease in students and funds would affect some plans, but that accommodations for staff and students would be made through attrition and reorganization.

He also emphasized there had been no discussion of teacher layoffs.

“We had some educator positions that we hoped to restore this year that we had budgeted for in years past, we won’t be implementing that,” he said. “There are also a few curriculum issues, there were a couple of improvements late summer in terms of revenue projects...

“I think we’re going to be alright, but it still is not good news.”

In the mid-1990s the Bainbridge district boomed with 6 to 7 percent increases in enrollment per annum. That trend weakened around 2000 to annual increases of 1-3 percent. Last year the school district was dealt its first enrollment decline in some time.

The trend, Crawford said, seems to be island specific.

“If you look at the surrounding Puget Sound area, the outlying systems with more affordable housing in terms of family houseing are growing,” he said. “Young families is where we’re seeing more of the loss today.

“It’s a challenge for young families to own homes and live in Bainbridge.”

Most of the shortfall comes from grade school age students, the loss of the youngest generation should be a worrisome sign for all islanders, Crawford said.

“I don’t know that anyone is necessarily surprised,” he said. “But as a community we should logically be concerned that on one hand the community is growing in size while the number of school age children is decreasing in numbers, and from my perspective that is an unhealthy trend that as a community we should examine.”

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