The initial projected student enrollment numbers for Oak Harbor Public Schools’ 2017 fall semester are in.
The task was — and continues to be — more complex than in previous years.
This complexity stems from a major reconfiguration the district is rolling out this fall, designating Oak Harbor Middle School for the district’s fifth and sixth graders and North Whidbey Middle School for the district’s seventh and eighth graders.
Hillcrest Elementary’s kindergartners will move from Oak Harbor Elementary — where they are now — back to Hillcrest.
The restructuring was designed to alleviate some of the crowding issues at the elementary level and to redistribute students into more appropriate groupings according to their developmental stages, said Steve King, assistant superintendent of Oak Harbor Public Schools.
“This is obviously maximizing the space we have at the intermediate and at North Whidbey campuses and provides relief for elementary schools, which we’ve clearly outgrown,” he said.
Primarily because of the reconfiguration, enrollment at Oak Harbor Middle/Intermediate School is set to grow by more than 300 students in the fall, from 583 to approximately 885, according to a presentation at the district’s Feb. 27 school board meeting.
North Whidbey Middle School is projected to see an increase of about 30 students, going from 550 to 780.
Meanwhile, the elementary schools will see an average a decrease of 89 enrolled students moving them “back down to sizes that those schools were built for,” King said.
Oak Harbor High School is set to lose more than 30 students due to a smaller eighth grade class rolling up, juxtaposed with a larger senior class graduating, King said. This change would mark the high school’s lowest enrollment numbers since its current administration took over in September 2003.
However, district officials are optimistic that the students from the lower levels will roll up into the higher grades — a phenomenon that has not occurred the way the district had projected in years past due to military migration, King said.
“Military students tend to be in younger families,” King said, adding that the students often move before they enter higher grades because military parents either get new orders or move their families back home after retirement.
The former Clover Valley Elementary building, closed in 2009, is now used for Home Connection students — those who learn at home part of the time and in a classroom the rest of the time — as well as by preschool Hand-in-Hand and Head Start students.
The former elementary school serves 475 students and future students.
The HomeConnection program stands to lose 12 students, from 212 to 200, in the current projections.
Overall, the district is expecting to see an estimated 5,755 students enroll in the fall. That’s 143 more students than were enrolled last September.
Projections are not final. Oak Harbor Public schools will not know final numbers until students are tallied at desks in the fall, King said.
The projections were created by examining growth trends in the military and civilian populations and by surveying the availability of housing in Oak Harbor.
King said the district will revisit the numbers each month for the rest of the school year.
“We just keep an eye on things for the rest of the year,” King said.
“As things change, we may change our projections.”