Oak Harbor schools getting plan in place for expected growth

With the Oak Harbor school district’s student population expected to grow by about 750 by 2016, the school board is setting in motion plans to accommodate the increase.

The population increase, a result of new Navy squadrons coming to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, is expected in fiscal year 2016, which would mean the first population hike would first be seen during the 2016-17 school year.

Superintendent Lance Gibbon said the school district will have its required review of the facilities next year, a requirement for every six years in Washington schools.

It will provide a good opportunity to come up with long-term solutions, he said.

However, Gibbon said, there is expected to be room for the projected increase at the middle school level, and possibly the high school level, as well.

“The high school, it’s going to be pretty tight,” Gibbon said. “The school was designed for more students than we have today, so there’s some capacity there.”

If there needs to be an increase in classrooms at the high school, Gibbon said, it would probably only happen in the two peak years of the population increase, before the number of extra students “levels out” at an estimated 500 students.

Elementary schools will present more of a challenge with the population increase.

Before the 2014-15 school year begins, the school district will install three double portable classrooms to the elementary schools, for a total of six new classrooms. There will be portables at Hillcrest Elementary, Broad View Elementary and Olympic View Elementary.

“That’s kind of the short range plan,” said Gibbon, “just to deal with what we kind of expect next fall.”

The district will need to be more classrooms than that by the time the population increase affects the school district, which is something the school board will address during its required facilities review.

Gibbon said he has been asked whether Clover Valley Elementary, located near Ault Field, will reopen as an elementary school.

He said those facilities are already at capacity.

Clover Valley is used for HomeConnection and preschool students, which totals about 400 students attending classes at that building, explained Gibbon.

HomeConnection is not a home-schooling program, Gibbon said, but rather a public school.

“There is a higher level of parent involvement … but those students are enrolled in the school district and attend classes on site,” he said.

While the school board is considering all of the options for the expected population increase, reopening Clover Valley would not solve any problems, but only “moves the problem,” according to Gibbon.

While that building could accommodate the influx of elementary students, the school board would then “have to address the facility needs of the 400 students already at the school.”


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