Head count high in Coupeville School District
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
September 16, 2011 · Updated 2:40 PM
The first day of school brought a surprise for staff of Coupeville schools -— significantly more students than originally anticipated.
Early enrollment numbers show approximately 960 students attending classes in the Coupeville School District, which is 80 students more than leaders had planned.
The increase means the school district can hire additional staff and restore some of the cutbacks that have taken place in recent years. Payments from the state are based on the number of students.
“We never anticipated we’d be over this much, even in a great year,” Coupeville School District Superintendent Patty Page said.
In fact, leaders have already taken the first step to deal with the growth. A new first-grade teacher is being hired for the elementary school.
Page said the numbers of first-graders showed the need for an additional teacher. Eighty-four first graders currently attend the elementary school and the school district wants to keep class size in the earlier grades as low as possible.
Page said Coupeville schools receive approximately $5,100 in state funding for each full-time student. She stated that employees will talk about what programs and potential staff positions the district can restore.
A recent enrollment count shows 406 students at the elementary school, 245 students at the middle school and 309 students at the high school. The projections anticipated 373 students at the elementary school, 247 students at the middle school and 261 students at the high school.
School districts have all made significant cutbacks in recent years because of funding reductions at the state and federal levels. Because of the reductions school district officials had to reduce the number of teaching and support positions for the current school year in order to balance the budget.
Page said during Monday’s school board meeting that the Coupeville School District has never met its enrollment projections in recent years. The district uses a formula developed by the state in determining its projected student population. The school district prefers that its enrollment predictions to match the actual count. If the count comes in higher than projected, then class sizes increase and officials scramble to find qualified staff. If the count is lower than projected, then the school district will run into funding problems trying to pay for extra staff.
The extra students come months after school officials cut a program that accounted for 50 full-time equivalent students — the Cedar Program for home-school families. Only 10 full-time students remained on the district’s enrollment numbers once the school year started, Page said. The remaining students either remained in homeschooling, joined online high schools such as the Washington Virtual Academy, or associated with other homeschooling programs in Oak Harbor or Orcas Island.
The loss of the Cedar Program doesn’t seem to have reduced the number of students attending Coupeville schools.
Page said staff members are pleased with the higher enrollment and are working to provide a quality education program that serves the district’s students.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Nathan Whalen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5058.