Enrollment drops no more than districts anticipated

Whidbey’s public schools saw enrollment drop for the 2020-21 school year, but all three districts were prepared for the decline.

Oak Harbor School District is starting the new school year with 5,482.94 full-time equivalent students, or FTE, in grades K-12.

“Our current enrollment is slightly below our projected or budgeted enrollment by 98 FTE, or 1.7 percent,” said Conor Laffey, communications officer for Oak Harbor Public Schools.

“Typically, our fall enrollment increases a bit over the fall and winter months.”

In September 2019, the total of FTE for the school district was 5,772.16.

Enrollment may increase slightly this fall as more schools are phased into the district’s Hybrid Rotation model, which brings back grades little by little, said Laffey, adding that there is also “the usual ebb and flow of military families moving into the district” to consider.

“Being the largest district in Western Washington currently offering the Hybrid Rotation model for preschool through fourth grade, we anticipated many families using a wait-and-see approach before enrolling their child in the district.”

Laffey attributes an increase in enrollment since the first day of school to the “early success” with the hybrid model and “rigorous” sanitizing and safety procedures.

The Hand-in-Hand Early Learning Center is nearing its highest starting enrollment ever with 184 preschool students.

However, the district’s kindergarten enrollment was 13 FTE less than budgeted.

The district’s homeschooling support program, HomeConnection, currently has 333 students in K-12, up from 275 last spring. Oak Harbor Virtual Academy was recently created as an alternative to in-person learning. It has 284 students in grades K-12.

Coupeville School District is starting the 2020-21 school year with 943.6 FTE, just six FTE fewer than budgeted.

Average enrollment the previous school year was 1,009.43 FTE.

“We really don’t have any grade levels that are much lower or higher than expected,” said Superintendent Steve King.

“Our kindergarten numbers are strong and very comparable to the last couple of years.”

South Whidbey School District began the year with 1,179.69 FTE, 48.41 fewer than budgeted.

Last September, enrollment was 1,283.08 FTE, 103.39 more than this September.

Superintendent Jo Moccia said the district has about half the number of kindergarten students, down 40 FTE from what was expected.

Dan Poolman, the district’s assistant superintendent of business and operations, said he believes the decrease in kindergarten enrollment reflects concerns about COVID-19.

“Enrollment is down across the state,” he added.

“The average in our educational service district is about minus 4.5 percent.”

The district’s new SWAP program, a homeschooling partnership between parents and teachers, currently has 96 students enrolled in grades K-6.

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