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Student drop raises concern in Coupeville

With two weeks gone in the 2008-2009 school year, Coupeville School District officials are closely watching how many students are enrolled in classes.

A September enrollment count shows the equivalent of 1,026.88 full-time students in the school district, which is 38 fewer than officials projected when making the budget.

Since state funding for public schools is generally based on enrollment, officials are alarmed at the lower-than-expected count.

Superintendent Patty Page said there are at least 10 students expected to enroll this week, but the low numbers are troubling.

“I’m still concerned,” Page said.

Officials are waiting until the official October enrollment count before making any decisions. Typically, the enrollment will increase slightly throughout the month and next month’s count provides a more accurate enrollment number.

If enrollment doesn’t increase to the anticipated level, Page said staff will have to review the district’s budget and look for areas to consolidate.

“We’re hoping that the enrollment grows,” Page said.

When school officials developed the district’s 2008-2009 school year budget earlier in the year, they had to slash approximately $395,000 to balance the document.

While Coupeville is monitoring its enrollment with concern, the picture in Oak Harbor schools is more positive.

Enrollment in Oak Harbor School District is at 5,238 students, which is 138 more than projected.

The higher-than-expected enrollment could mean a change in a trend that has been plaguing Oak Harbor schools for years. It has been losing so many students that Clover Valley Elementary School was closed, leaving only five elementary schools.

“We appear to have a leveling in enrollment decline,” said Lance Gibbon, assistant superintendent for the Oak Harbor School District.

The increase is found at various levels throughout the district. Elementary school enrollment was 109 students above projection, Oak Harbor High School is 41 students over projections and HomeConnection is 24 students over projection.

School districts generally try to make as accurate an enrollment projection as possible. If actual enrollment comes in lower than projections, then school districts may have to make cutbacks. If actual enrollment comes in too high, then officials have classes with too many students in them.

Gibbon said that an additional teacher had to be hired at Hillcrest Elementary School, but class sizes throughout the district are balanced. Hillcrest was 39 students over budget this year.

He added that there are only two empty classrooms in the district, both located at Oak Harbor Elementary.

Gibbon noted that transfers between schools are lower than from the previous year. Last year the school district had nearly 400 transfer requests, while the school district this year had 200 requests. He said last year’s transfer requests were attributed to school boundary changes. This year families seem more satisfied with their schools.

“Parents are happier with the schools they’re at,” Gibbon said.

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