Olympia Schools District Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Jennifer Priddy reported that student enrollment has not returned to pre-pandemic levels of 9,678 in School Year (SY) 2019-20 during the school board’s regular meeting last Thursday, May 26,
The OSD first saw the decline in enrollment in SY 2020-21 – the first pandemic year, when enrollment was at 8,872.
However, the OSD saw a slight increase in the current school year. Priddy said they would end SY 2021-2022 with a projected enrollment of 9,169.
Priddy added the projected overall enrollment in SY 2022-23 in OSD schools is 8,985.
Housing and enrollment
One of the schools that had an enrollment decline was Reeves Middle School.
In SY 2019-2020, the school enrolled 395 students. It increased in SY 2020-21 to 415 students. In the SY 2021-2022, Priddy said the enrollment is 374 and projected SY 2022-23 enrollment is 364.
Olympia School District Board of Directors president Maria Flores wanted to find out if the unaffordability of housing contributes to the continued enrollment decline in schools.
“I wonder if some of this is due to the unaffordability of housing. Reeves [middle school] is in my district area. The house values in this regional have become insane. I am wondering if people are also leaving because it is hard to afford to live in this district,” Flores speculated.
According to Priddy, the OSD considers looking at school boundary areas and analyzing housing availability within the boundaries. “We know that we have had some significant growth in parts of the district and that housing aspect needs to be worked back into our boundaries.”
Impact on staffing
According to Priddy, most school districts could not closely project the SY2021-22 enrollment.
In spring 2021, she said optimism surrounded the vaccine and anticipated an in-person and regular activity schedule. They also assumed that enrollment would return to normal levels.
However, students did not return at pre-pandemic levels, Priddy added.
With the continued decline in enrollment, Priddy said the OSD needs to resize in terms of staffing.
She said the enrollment number in 2019 drove the OSD to hire 379 teachers. But the enrollment projection in SY 2022-23 may result in the reduction in classroom teachers to 351.
The OSD also saw several retirements and resignations since March.
Priddy said the Human Resources team assists principals and teachers to fill vacant positions through transfers of staff from other schools.
“We are not reducing staff to cut those ratios. We are reducing our staffing allocations to implement those ratios based on the new enrollment,” said Priddy.
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