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District loses more students than expected

Although South Kitsap School District officials predicted about 100 fewer students would be walking their halls this year, the actual head count Sept. 9 revealed a bit more were missing — 32 to be exact.

The fourth day of classes is a traditional counting day, which district officials said is crucial in determining if the district hired the right amount of teachers and other staff, and if they put them in the right places.

“Right now, we have two staffing positions that we’re holding,” said Marcia Wentzel, the district’s director of business services.

The number of kids enrolled last month was 10,556, which is 32 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions less than the 10,588 — or 1 percent drop — predicted. Despite a jump in kindergarters and 12th graders, students enrolled in grades 3, 4 and 5 declined — along with 9th and 11th graders — enough to dip the total number below predictions.

This potentially affects the district’s budget because the state funds the school district $4,000 for each FTE student, which amounts to $128,000.

However, Wentzel said this will not necessarily translate into budget deficits.

“Our funding is based on an annual average enrollment,” she said. “The enrollment decline is not catastrophic — unless it continues to decline.”

At the last South Kitsap School Board meeting last week, Terri Patton, the district’s assistant superintendent for business services, said unfortunately enrollment is likely to do just that.

Historically, the district’s annual average enrollment number is less than what is recorded on the first counting day at the elementary, junior high and high school levels.

Because of that, Patton said the impact on the budget is likely to be greater than the loss of 32 full-time students, or $128,000, and that the district will be keeping a close watch on enrollment numbers throughout the next few months.

“We will be very cautious about our decisions impacting the budget, mostly regarding staffing,” said Wentzel. “It’s so difficult to predict our enrollment from year to year, we have such a transient population, we’re never really certain.”

SKSD’s enrollment decline was mirrored in two other local school districts: Central Kitsap, which was 100 under it’s estimate, and North Kitsap, which was 74 under estimate.

South Kitsap’s decline in students matches the prediction last year by a consultant commissioned by the district who said enrollment will fall sharply over the next few years, due mostly to traffic constraints and an aging population.

Last year, the district’s enrollment decreased by 88 students.

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