Fewer students from military families are attending Oak Harbor schools these days.
Superintendent Rick Schulte announced during Monday’s Oak Harbor School Board meeting that the number of students living in military housing declined by 133 and the number of military students living in civilian housing declined by 79.
As of October 2012, 2,882 of the 5,619 students enrolled in the school district came from military families, or 51.3 percent of students. Schulte said that was the lowest rate in at least 13 years.
Schulte said the loss of military students is going to have a dramatic impact on Impact Aid dollars the school district will receive in the coming school year. The school district conducts a count in October to track the numbers of students coming from military families. That information is used to determine the school district’s Impact Aid amount from the Department of Defense. The district is budgeting to receive approximately $4 million for the current year.
Impact Aid is a federal funding source for school districts that have large populations of students living on federal lands. Since families living on those lands don’t pay property taxes, it places a financial burden on the school district.
While military students are declining, Schulte noted that the number of civilian students is continuing to climb to its highest number in eight years.
In an interview after the meeting, Schulte said he didn’t know what caused the enrollment drop, but said he learned base housing was at 91 percent capacity.
Schulte said the lower numbers of students will complicate the district’s enrollment projections for the coming year. School officials are normally developing enrollment projections for the coming school year as part of their budget process. An accurate enrollment is crucial because it’s the basis of state and federal funding.
This year, officials are delaying work for about a month until several decisions are made, most notably the levy election. If voters approve the levy by at least a simple majority, it would mean millions of dollars for the school district. Voters have until Feb. 12 to cast a ballot in the mail-in election.
If the levy fails, then Schulte expects enrollment to continue to decline as some of the new families considering Oak Harbor for their children may go elsewhere.
Schulte said school staff is also waiting to learn whether federal spending cuts become a reality and how the state will resolve the situation of having to make cuts while honoring a court order to spend more money on education.
School officials canceled their next school board meeting that was scheduled for Feb. 11, the day before election day. The school board scheduled a special meeting Feb. 19 to discuss the results of the levy.