When it comes to student enrollment, Port Townsend and Brinnon are on a continued upswing, Quilcene is experiencing a slight decline, and Chimacum is looking to find why it’s posted its steepest decline in half a dozen years.
The Port Townsend School District experienced a bit of a boost to its overall enrollment numbers at the start of the 2018-19 school year.
According to Katy Gaffney, assistant to the superintendent of the Port Townsend School District, the enrollment numbers reported to the state for September of 2018 were:
• 498 for Salish Coast Elementary, which includes grades K-5 and OPEPO (OPtional Education PrOgram).
• 295 for Blue Heron Middle School, which includes grades 6-8.
• 338 for Port Townsend High School, which includes grades 9-12.
• 49 for OCEAN, which includes grades K-12.
This gives the Port Townsend School District a total student enrollment of 1,180 for September of this year, up from the enrollment total of 1,134 that the district ended the 2017-18 school year in June, which itself was an increase from the enrollment of 1,125 in September of last year, at the start of the 2017-18 school year.
This June’s enrollment numbers reported to the state were:
• 322 for Grant Street Elementary, which included grades K-3 and OPEPO.
• 432 for Blue Heron Middle School, which included grades 4-8.
• 309 for Port Townsend High School, which included 9-12.
• 71 for OCEAN, which included grades K-12.
For September 2017, those numbers were 321 for Grant Street, 412 for Blue Heron, 317 for PTHS and 75 for OCEAN.
Salish Coast Elementary Principal Lisa Condran acknowledged in comparison to Grant Street’s enrollment in 2017-18, Salish Coast’s enrollment at the start of 2018-19 is obviously “greatly increased” with the addition of grades 4 and 5.
“However, overall enrollment compared to last year is similar, when comparing grades K-5,” Condran said. “I’m looking forward to having a brand-new building for our students, families and staff, that will enable us to create great learning experiences.”
Blue Heron School and OCEAN Principal Theresa Campbell noted Blue Heron likewise had “a significant change” this year, going from serving grades 4-8 to serving only grades 6-8.
“Students and staff are embracing the middle school setting, and having a whole team of teachers to support students at each grade level is a huge benefit in becoming a true middle school,” Campbell said. “I am most looking forward to sustaining the enthusiasm for school that our students start with on the first day, by providing safe and engaging learning opportunities throughout the year.”
On a similar note, PTHS Principal Carrie Ehrhardt expressed enthusiasm for “the positive energy of getting students back in the halls, and welcoming both returning and new students, and families,” to the high school.
Sandy Gessner, assistant superintendent for the Port Townsend School District, noted they had not yet conducted any survey to determine who is new to the district or who might recently enrolled, so “it is hard to say for sure” what has caused their increase in enrollment.
“However, one hunch would be that the opening of the new building is a sign of renewal, signifying the community’s support and continued dedication for education,” Gessner said.
The Chimacum School District reported its steepest year-to-year drop since at least the 2012-13 school year, which recorded a 3.9 percent drop from the 2011-12 school year.
At the same time, student enrollment actually increased during the 2012-13 school year, from 994 in September of 2012 to 1,008 in June of 2013.
Likewise, the 2013-14 school year also saw a boost in attendance for Chimacum, with an average of 1,055 students over the course of that school year, marking a 5.3 percent increase in enrollment over the prior school year.
Since then, however, Chimacum has posted enrollment decreases of 2.1 percent for the 2014-15 school year, 1.5 percent for both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, and 9.7 percent for the 2017-18 school year.
The 2017-18 school year began with 921 students enrolled in Chimacum schools for September 2017, which declined to 879 students in June of 2018.
This September’s total of 812 students for the Chimacum schools represented a 10.4 percent year-to-year enrollment drop.
“Enrollment continues to be a challenge,” Chimacum School District Superintendent Rick Thompson said, adding the district has sent out invites to district committee meetings to address the enrollment issue.
In his most recent message on the Chimacum School District website at csd49.org, Thompson has also solicited the input of current and former Chimacum families to find out what they feel the school district has done well and how it could be doing better.
Quilcene School District Principal Sean Moss reported an enrollment number of 214 on-campus K-12 for the start of the 2018-19 year, down slightly from 226 for the 2017-18 school year.
Quilcene School District Superintendent Frank Redmon acknowledged the marginal decline, but expressed optimism over the “great enthusiasm” he saw among students and staff as they started the current school year.
“I am looking forward to seeing how far we will go this year,” Redmon said. “Big changes on the horizon this year include a new strategic plan. We’re in the process of assembling a team of community members, parents, students and staff to create a five-year plan based on the needs of our students, our goals for improvement, and the aspirations of the community for the school district.”
Redmon also expected Quilcene’s Partnership for Excellence in Alternative Remote Learning program to see “a small decrease of about 10 students, although we anticipate increasing that number to the 2017-2018 enrollment level by the October count.”
Meanwhile, Brinnon School District Superintendent Patricia Beathard deemed the 2018-19 school year as being off to a great start.
“Four years ago, our K-8 student enrollment was 41,” Beathard said. “Today, we have 78 K-8 students and another 10 preschool students. We even added a classroom teacher to address the growth.”
Beathard deemed enrollment difficult to predict in such a small school district, which in turn makes budgeting a challenge.
Nonetheless, the Brinnon School District has seen steady year-to-year growth in its enrollment since those 41 students in the 2014-15 school year, with year-long averages of 51 students in the 2015-15 school year, 57 students in the 2016-17 school year and 69 students in the 2017-18 school year.
The Brinnon School District even closed out the 2017-18 school year with 74 students in June, only four fewer than the 78 recorded and reported to the state for September of this year.
Beathard pointed to improved student performance as a possible draw for enrollment.
“Student passing rates improved in nine of 12 tested areas, and remained the same in one,” Beathard said. “We also made some improvements in our facilities over the summer, including ramps for our portables, curbs, sidewalks and improved outside drainage.”
The Brinnon School District is also providing a number of new programs this year, including a Jumping Mouse counseling pilot program, and starting Oct. 10, a 4-H after-school program Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3:20 to 5:20 p.m.