SK school enrollment declining

Student enrollment for the South Kitsap School District will fall sharply over the next few years, according to a forecast presented to the school board Monday night.

“We believe that enrollment will continue to decline for the next five years,” said Jeff Greene, a consultant commissioned by the district.

Among the reasons Greene gave for this decline are traffic constraints and an aging population.

South Kitsap will not attract new people, Greene said, until traffic problems are resolved, or lessened. “Transportation facilities will limit growth,” he said. “SR16 will remain the most important link, and the Tacoma Narrows bridge will remain a significant constraint.

“We believe that enrollment will not recover until after 2010, upon completion of a new bridge,” Greene said.

In addition to commute problems keeping new homebuyers away, Greene said an aging population in general will translate into fewer students.

“The student-age population will decrease to less than 15 percent of the district’s population,” Greene said.

When school board member Jeff Huff asked what the rest of the population will look like, Greene said:

“The population will look like us — it will look old. We think that Washington state will be older than Florida in the next 15 years,” Greene said.

Assistant Superintendent Terri Patton said the predicted decline came as no shock. “It was no surprise to me,” she said. “I’ve seen this trend. But I think there’s great value in (Greene’s) presentation. It explains the reasons why.

“He can give us a longer look, he’s an expert,” she said.

Enrollment projections help the school district plan for future facility and program needs. This particular forecast casts doubt on the proposed need for a new high school in South Kitsap.

“The data is not there to support the new high school, at least based on enrollment need,” Patton said.

Greene admitted, however, that his predictions are just that — predictions.

“It is always a guessing game making predictions,” he said. “Trends that have continued for 20 years can stop on a dime.”

Other business addressed at the school board meeting Monday night included:

• Tim Mullins, the school district’s director of technology, announced the first phase of the district’s plan to install a new phone system has been moved up. The first phase, which includes installing new phones for South Kitsap High School, the district office and the transportaion and technology offices, will begin this summer.

Mullins said the district decided to start the project sooner for safety reasons, among them the continued failures of the phone system at the high school.

When phase one is complete, the project will continue at the rate of about a building a month until the stimated completion date of summer, 2003. He said the total price tag for will be $1.4 miilion, just under the maxium alloted amount of $1.5 million.

• Greg Roberts officially announced that Lori Thomkins will be taking over his duties as director of personnel. Roberts will be taking over for Sherrie Evans, the assistant superintendent for personnel, when she retires in June.

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