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Oak Harbor School Board discusses base growth and education

By MICHELLE BEAHM
Staff reporter

Capt. Mike Nortier, commanding officer of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, outlined base growth projections Monday with the Oak Harbor School Board.

Nortier reported on the expected population increase at NAS Whidbey over the next several years.

Because the Navy’s P-8s, which are modified Boeing 737s, are replacing the prop-engine P-3, additional personnel will be moving to NAS Whidbey during the next few years. Three squadrons will be moving to NAS Whidbey, one per year, starting in fiscal year 2016, Nortier said.

Overall base population of active duty sailors will increase from “just under” 7,000 to about 8,800, said Nortier. For every sailor, Nortier said, Whidbey can expect an average of 2.2 dependents to move here with them.

“I think the margin of error in those (numbers) is pretty close,” Nortier said.

Based on current numbers and recent history, Superintendent Lance Gibbon said an estimated 700 to 750 new students can be expected over the years when the population increases because of the additional squadrons.

However, the population at NAS Whidbey is set to decrease during fiscal years 2019 and 2020, causing the student population, which would be increasing up until 2019, to drop by about 250 students at that time.

Because the projected numbers are an estimate, more definite planning will have to wait until closer to time of the population increase, and more collaboration between the school board and NAS Whidbey would need to take place, school officials said.

“We’ll keep talking, keep communicating,” said Gibbon.

 

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