Attendance continues to be a concern at BISD

Attendance in the Bainbridge Island School District has dropped about 500 students in the past decade, and officials are planning that trend to continue, meaning another decline in state funding.

At Thursday’s school board meeting, Human Resources director Nathan Fitzpatrick, projected attendance to be 3,342, down from around 3,880 in 2011. Attendance dropped about 200 this year due to COVID-19. About 55% were in kindergarten through third grade, which actually gets more state money to keep class sizes small. So that drastically hurt school funding this year.

School officials hope many of those students will return as COVID numbers drop and more kids go to school in-person. But the district is planning for next year using conservative enrollment projections. “There’s going to be a big drop in the budget,” school board member Sanjay Pal said.

Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen added, “The implication is there may be some reduction in staffing.”

Fitzpatrick said sometimes staffing can balance out with retirements and resignations. He hopes kindergarten numbers actually could go up next year, thinking some parents opted out this year due to COVID. But that could be balanced out as private Hyla Middle School is expanding to 9-12 grades. Also, families will be making school decisions based on state COVID guidelines and how many students can fit into a classroom.

“We’ll be meeting with school principals on what the implications could be,” he said. “We’re trying to wrap our heads around the impact.”

Also at the meeting, Jennifer Kniseley, director of teaching and learning, talked about math curriculum for sixth- through eighth-graders.

A survey was sent to parents of the 900 students, but only 250 responded. About half said they weren’t even aware of the math curriculum or how well the district does on state assessments. “We need to do a better job of communicating with our families,” she said, adding the district does really well compared with the state average.

Parents did say their children like textbook learning. Kniseley said they do get comments from parents about needing support to help kids with homework. When asked what are the two most-important aspects of math to learn, at about 50% each were: experiential learning, computation skills and practice, and challenge and extension. She found it interesting that an equity question only garnered 27%.

Blakely principal Reese Ande gave a math adoption update for kindergarten through fifth-graders. A large group from all over the district has been working on it since September. Ande said the teachers “willingness to grow as mathmeticians” was impressive. Wilkes principal Amii Pratt said that professional learning for teachers will be important, probably a multi-year process.

In his report, Bang-Knudsen said BI is the first district in Kitsap County to be fully back in school as high schoolers have now returned. He said he’s been impressed with how flexible, diligent and patient students and parents have been. “It’s really been an amazing experience.” He thanked teachers and custodians for “hustling in-between classes to clean.” He thanked parents for taking their kids back and forth to school midday. And he thanked the Rotary Club for helping find substitute teachers, but more are needed. “It’s been an entire community effort.”

A year ago, BISD schools closed on March 12. Now, not only are they back but 15% of teachers have been fully vaccinated, and 45% have received their first dose. He said while 2,693 students are learning in-person there are 456 in distance learning. Bang-Knudsen said he is excited about the governor’s announcement to enter Phase 3 of the recovery plan, but there still are limits on what can be done. “We want to do some fun and engaging things this spring,” he said, but it probably won’t look like before COVID.

He encouraged Islanders to get vaccinated, but asked that everyone wear masks and social distance “so we don’t go backwards.” He said he hopes school will be back to full-time in the fall as most people will be vaccinated by then. He said depending on Department of Health guidelines, there still may need to be some hybrid learning as there may not be enough room in classrooms for everyone due to distancing requirements.

In other news:

*Mike Spence, who has been a school board member for 12 years, announced his resignation effective March 31. Work is the main reason, but he also said it’s a good time as both of his kids have graduated and the last of three construction projects in the district has been completed.

*In the only public comment, Lindsay Lyon said “to come from where we were a year ago to where we are today has been huge.” She thanked the district for following the science and opening schools. She said not enough has been said about how not being in school hurt kids mentally. “We haven’t seen many cases of COVID in kids, but we have seen a lot mental illness.” She said she hopes in-person learning returns next year. “It’s critical to their well being.” She said she’s glad to see educators getting vaccinated. “Teachers are essential. Being in-person is essential.”

*There will be tours of the new buildings at Bainbridge High School March 27 starting at noon. Each tour is limited to 18 people. COVID-19 protocols are required. Go to: