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Oak Harbor schools expect fewer students

With another year, comes another expected dip in school enrollment numbers.

The Oak Harbor School board began its initial enrollment forecast for the 2009-10 school year, and predict a total of 4,950 students, or a 94 student drop.

In the past eight years, enrollment has steadily declined in Oak Harbor, with only two exceptions.

This year, board members were surprised to see enrollment had stabilized, after predicting a 94 student loss last year as well.

However, the last time enrollment stabilized, the biggest drop in the eight-year period occurred the next year.

Superintendent Rick Schulte said at last week’s board meeting that the enrollment forecast is the first step in determining the district budget and staffing.

The forecast is complicated by the uncertainty over federal, state and local funding. A decrease in enrollment, failure of the levies, a cut in state funding and Impact Aid could lead to significant cuts.

But unlike surrounding districts, Oak Harbor’s expected drop is small.

South Whidbey School District predicted an enrollment decrease of 120 and Stanwood School District, which is about Oak Harbor’s size, expects 180 fewer students in the 2009-2010 school year.

“There is evidence of people leaving Stanwood because they can’t find jobs close by. In South Whidbey, we hear that home prices are too high for young families,” Schulte said.

The number could change based on additional information, such as an increase or decrease in home prices.

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