Oak Harbor school enrollment expected to decline next year

Enrollment had been climbing steadily the previous eight years but is expected to drop next year.

Student enrollment in Oak Harbor Public Schools was lower in 2020 than it was during the previous four years and is estimated to continue to fall, according to preliminary numbers presented to the school board on Feb. 8.

“This isn’t unique to Oak Harbor, this is happening across the state,” Assistant Superintendent Dwight Lundstrom said.

There were 5,483 full time equivalent students enrolled in September 2020, according to school data.

The school had budgeted for 5,580 students in the 2020-21 school year.

Enrollment had been climbing steadily the previous eight years and topped 5,771 pupils in September 2019.

Preliminary numbers budgeted 5,450 students in the 2021-22 school year, Lundstrom said.

That includes 240 HomeConnection students and 260 Oak Harbor Virtual Academy students.

Both programs are alternatives to traditional in-person schooling.

The numbers determine the school’s budget, including staffing, Superintendent Lance Gibbon said.

Gibbon prefaced the presentation by saying the numbers were “best characterized as very preliminary and probably even theoretical enrollment numbers.”

The only age group above the budgeted number of students this school year were those in grades 9-12.

The school district had budgeted for 1,511, but there were 1,522 in February, Lundstrom said.

He also showed enrollment broken down by which program students were attending.

Distance Plus and Oak Harbor Virtual Academy offer distance learning. HomeConnection is the school district’s parent partnership homeschooling program.

Hybrid in-person instruction is also now available to all grades.

The number of students in hybrid learning is three times higher than the students in the Distance Plus, Oak Harbor Virtual Academy and HomeConnection programs combined in grades pre-K through eight in the month of February

Kindergarten through fourth grade students accounted for the largest share of students attending hybrid in-person classes with 1,623 students.

Enrollment spreads changed among high school students.

There, 412 students were enrolled among the three distance learning options while 1,156 students chose to attend hybrid in-person classes.

High school students returned to hybrid in-person classes on Feb. 9 for the first time since the pandemic began, while pre-K through sixth grade students have been going to class for months.

Lundstrom said the numbers were conservative and the school district would survey families’ plans in the spring.

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