Declining enrollment tightens OSD belt anew


Olympia School District (OSD) is facing constriction in the budget as it sees a further decline in enrollment for the School Year 2022-2023, said OSD Assistant Supt. of Business and Finance Jennifer Priddy.

The OSD projected a total enrollment of 8,985 students next school year; less than 200 students fewer than 2021-2022 and almost 700 fewer students from 2019-2020.

Kate Davis, OSD director of Financial Services, explained that enrollment growth started in 2012 and reached its peak in 2019.

She said the state had invested a billion dollars a year in education during those years. "We started spending, doing new programs and initiatives, new ways of designing our education."

Davis explained that schools have fixed costs – front office staff, principals, and counselors. "When enrollments are growing, you don’t have to necessarily add some of those fixed spots. But when the enrollment is going down, the state is taking money back.”

"Our costs are not constricting at the same rate. When we lose 692 students, you would have closed at least one school," Davis said as she illustrated the cost of losing students.

Davis noted that the decline is spread through different grades, and the schools could not take away a teacher or services.

Davis said it is challenging for the district to keep improving with the funding going down.

In the coming school year, OSD Superintendent Patrick Murphy said there might be five elementary schools projected to have fewer than 300 kids enrolled. "Running schools at that size is very expensive."

Schools with less than 300 student enrollees projection for SY 2022-2023 include:

  • Boston Harbor Elementary School: 181 students
  • Garfield Elementary School: 280 students
  • Lincoln Options Elementary School:  233 students
  • Madison Elementary School:204 students
  • Margaret McKenny Elementary School: 253 students

 What would it look like in the classrooms?

According to OSD Assistant Superintendent for Fiscal and Operations Jennifer Priddy, OSD is reducing 15 classrooms from across the 11 elementary schools.

Priddy added that out of 173 classrooms, nine are combination classrooms.

The teacher-student ratio at K-3 will be 1:17. In Grades 4 and 5 level classrooms will be 1:25. In the middle and secondary schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 28 students.

Priddy identified 35 classroom teacher reductions in elementary, middle, and high school. But she emphasized that the district absorbed these teachers. "Every teacher who wanted a position in the district has a position."

In May, Priddy reported to the board of directors that OSD received only $2.8 million in enrollment stabilization funds. She said it was 50% less than what they expected from the federal government.

The enrollment stabilization funds are allocation from the federal government to support the impact of enrollment decline in schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Housing concerns

OSD Board of Directors President Maria Flores reiterated her concerns about the relationship between housing affordability and low school enrollment, believing that the housing problem is one of the significant factors that affect enrollment.

Flores hopes to bring the issue to the Olympia City Council, with which the  school board has committed to joint meetings each quarter.

"I hope we can talk about enrollment more specifically with them and some of the affordable housing policies they are working on," Flores told the directors. "It is hard to live in Olympia right now, especially if you are a renter or low income."


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  • slyfed

    The first 5 items on this page are all interrelated. Every government entity calls raising taxes "belt-tightening", yet it is the taxpayer's belt being tightened.

    Homelessness is seldom a financial goal of families, but rather a necessity. As cities and counties struggle to move homeless people out of their sight, more people are being forced to live in tents and unhealthy conditions by inflation, and now the OSD is seeking to add further hardships to marginally broke home owners, and teach landlords how to evict people who are cash strapped.

    There has to be an end to this foolishness that does not create further problems.

    Saturday, July 16, 2022 Report this