Oak Harbor School District enrollment numbers decline

One thing surprised Oak Harbor school leaders when classes started in early September: There were fewer than expected students in the schools.

The first enrollment count taken four days after class started shows there was the equivalent of 5,118 full-time students in Oak Harbor schools. That number is 182 students less than what was projected in the district budget.

“It’s the biggest drop we’ve seen for about six years,” said Lance Gibbon, assistant superintendent for the Oak Harbor School District. He presented the enrollment numbers during Monday’s school board meeting.

Enrollment is important because school districts get state funding based on the number of students attending classes. The school district generally receives around $5,000 per student, meaning the school district has to resolve about a $900,000 revenue loss.

The school district had plans in place for such a decline in students. Gibbon said during Monday’s meeting that four-and-a-half teaching positions were originally left unfilled in case enrollment dipped. When it looked in August like the student numbers were low, officials filled three other vacant positions internally. Gibbon noted that one of the teachers who taught middle school transferred to an elementary school.

With those additional seven-and-a-half positions left unfilled, the school district will save approximately $560,000. Gibbon said the additional savings can be achieved through reductions that come with fewer students.

Even with the reduction in teachers, the class sizes in school are at or below limits at all grade levels, Gibbon said.

Fewer Navy kids

Schools that serve primarily Navy families experienced the greatest drop in the number of students. Oak Harbor Elementary saw a drop of 39 students, Olympic View Elementary lost 31 students, Crescent Harbor Elementary lost 16, North Whidbey Middle School lost 38, Oak Harbor High School lost 31 and HomeConnection lost 20. Gibbon talked with Navy officials who told him occupancy rate in its housing had declined.

Around 52 percent of the students in the Oak Harbor School District are from Navy families.

Gibbon said the school district will continue monitoring enrollment levels. The next official enrollment count takes place in October. In addition they have to see how the loss of so many Navy students will affect the district’s Impact Aid disbursements, which is available to school districts that have large amounts of federally owned land that isn’t on the tax rolls. The school district is budgeting to receive $4.5 million in Impact Aid.

The enrollment picture is different in Coupeville.

The Central Whidbey school district had the equivalent of 981.73 full-time students while the budget was at 923.5 full time students. Enrollment was above projections at the elementary school and below projections at the middle and high school, according to information provided by the Coupeville School District.


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