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South Whidbey enrollment numbers higher than expected

South End classrooms aren’t bursting at the seams, but an unexpected bump-up in enrollment numbers has given officials in the South Whidbey School District some much-needed good news.

School began Sept. 7. According to the school district’s most recent enrollment report, the full-time equivalent of 1,537 students are now in South End schools.

“They’re better than we expected,” said Dan Poolman, business manager for the school district, said of the enrollment numbers.

The actual number of students in the district is higher than 1,537, given that the district budgets according to a full-time equivalent (FTE) model, and kindergartners only attend school for half a day. The FTE numbers are critical, however, because the school district receives approximately $5,400 per FTE student from the state.

The district had built its budget on an estimated average of 1,474 FTE students this school year.

Poolman cautioned that the student count is always high in September, given that the high school loses students late in the school year as they peel off for the Running Start program and begin taking college classes. Later in the year is also the time, historically, when some families move from the area.

Poolman said the kindergarten population is up about 15 students, as well as the fifth and sixth grade.

“They each have 10 or 12 kids more than we anticipated,” he said. “Ninth grade is the other one that’s up, about 15 or so. It’s very positive.”

The South Whidbey School District was expecting to see the second-largest enrollment drop in its history this school year.

The continued drop-off in enrollment prompted roughly $1.3 million in cuts to this year’s budget from the spending level seen in the 2009-10 budget. The school board adopted a $20.7 million budget for 2010-11 earlier this summer that included fewer teachers and reduced programs.

District officials had predicted a total of 122 fewer students this year. In the past school year, the district lost 161 students.

Poolman said it’s too soon to say exactly why there are more students this year than anticipated.

“I haven’t seen the reports that tell me where they are coming from,” he said, adding that the district will get a “fairly strong idea” of the enrollment picture by November.

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