The Olympia School Board District (OSD) held its regular board meeting last Thursday, January 12, to discuss a potential decline in enrollment in the district.
Jennifer Priddy, assistant superintendent of business and finance, presented the 2023-2024 enrollment projections and staffing implications.
Citing five years’ worth of data through a ‘progression method’ developed by the Educational Service District, Priddy showed the graph with an evident decline in the projected 2023-24 enrollment.
“Putting into our budget starts with enrollment. Each year we must re-project our upcoming fall enrollment,” Priddy reported. “The outcome of that projection is the core of the budget development process.”
Priddy elaborated that the progression of enrollment drives the state funding that the district will receive, how much they can collect from the voter-approved enrichment levy, and the staffing that they must plan for.
“Overall, we are projecting 128 fewer students than we have in the current school year. Most of those students [in] that lower number are [sic] at the elementary level. We will have 157 fewer students at the elementary level next year, we'll have a slightly higher middle school population and a slightly higher high school population,’’ Priddy said.
Superintendent Patrick Murphy presented some probable reasons why more younger students are not choosing to enroll with the district.
“I was visiting middle schools with a group of superintendents we were walking around. They said there's a lot of building going on in Olympia. A lot of them are condominiums that are not attracting families necessarily,” Murphy said.
He also added that the data must also dig into economic issues, “Where kids are going is varying and there's been a change in our economy that allows people to live in different places that are more affordable. I don't have the exact data to support that, but I think those are the things that we need to dig into and find out why that's happening.”
Attendees who commented during the meeting pointed out school board practices as a factor in the declining numbers.
The number of students expected to enroll for the upcoming school year is said to be similar to the 2013-2014 population.
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