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District expects 3 percent fewer students

"South Kitsap School District personnel are looking at about a 3 percent decline in student enrollment next year. But thanks to Initiative 728 and levy funds, the loss in students — and state funding — should ultimately balance out.A shrinking economy and declining birthrates are the likely culprits for the decline in the number of students enrolling this year, said Terry Patton, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and support services. Last year saw the smallest enrollment of kindergarteners nationwide, she said. Because South Kitsap tends to trail national trends, district personnel could expect to see declines again this year.That said, school district personnel are not expecting a greater decline than last year, when enrollment also dipped by 3 percent, or roughly 360 students. “We’re expecting the same trend ... a decline or flat,” Patton said.Districts around the Puget Sound region experienced a reduction in enrollment, while schools in Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., experienced increases in enrollment numbers.School districts project enrollment statistics as part of the budget drafting process. They use birth statistics, grade progression and local population trends to predict enrollment.The state distributes money among school districts based on the number of students enrolled each year. A declining enrollment usually means a significant loss of funds for a district, leading to a reduction in staffing. But South Kitsap School District personnel aren’t worried. “That doesn’t mean we had to reduce the number of teachers,” Patton said. “We also had 728 (money) that kicks in next year, and levy funds. It’s kind of a wash.”That said, the district would have been in more dire circumstances without Initiative 728 and levy money. “We would have risked some teachers,” Patton said. “Or, we might not have filled some positions that were vacated.” "

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