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Preliminary demographic study results: Enrollment losses will persist for CK schools

It is no surprise that Central Kitsap schools are experiencing a slump in enrollment.

In the last six years, the district’s enrollment has declined by 640 students. The “vexing part” is trying to determine the reasoning behind the decline, said Reed Hansen in a preliminary demographic study presentation to the school board last Wednesday.

The Central Kitsap School District’s geographic area has a population growth rate comparable to the county and state trends. Reed Hansen & Associates, a Bainbridge Island contractor, analyzed data collected between 1990 and 2000. The average population growth rate for Kitsap County was 2 percent and for the state it was 1.9 percent. However, in the latter part of the decade, that rate had shrunk to 0.7 percent growth in 1997 for the county. That same year, CK schools began to see an enrollment decline after a peak of 12,888 (full time equivalent) FTE students in the mid-1990s.

The enrollment in CK schools this school year is 11,987 FTE, a total loss of about 900 since the downward spiral began.

Population growth rate is 0.4 percent in CKSD’s area now.

“That’s lower than ... natural replacement of population,” Hansen told school board members and administrators.

Adding to the demographics formula is a reduction in the proportion of population that is of school age.

In the CKSD area, 22.4 percent of the population in 1990 was of school age, by 2000 it was down to 21.1 percent.

Based on such numbers and study of birthrates, Puget Sound Regional Council (a growth and transportation organization), construction permitting trends for new housing, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction projection data, and CKSD’s actual enrollment numbers, Hansen compiled his preliminary remarks for this week’s presentation.

“The (population) growth we’re experiencing now, which is pretty modest, will continue through 2010,” he said.

In his preliminary study presentation, Hansen offered a few “anecdotal” reasons for fewer students in the classroom.

Women in the military are nowadays more reluctant to have children. While they participate in active military service, they delay having children, he suggested.

Another trend is families who linger in Silverdale and the greater CK after their children graduate from high school. People like the area and are reluctant to leave it even after they become empty nesters, Hansen said.

The final findings and two scenario projections for the 2013-14 school year from the demographic study, commissioned by CKSD’s capital projects office, will be released at the end of the month.

There are, however, several variables yet to be polished.

CKSD has 72 fewer kindergarten pupils this school year than in 2004-05. Hansen calls that an anomaly because it is one of the sharpest drops in kindergarten enrollment in recent years.

“Even with the most conservative values I can ascribe to kindergarten growth,” Hansen said, “I’m achieving slightly higher than this year’s (enrollment numbers).”

Based on the local births from five years ago, there ought to have been more children of kindergarten age enrolled in CK schools this year, he explained.

Hansen said he already took the kindergarten enrollment dip into account when he arrived at his first 2013-14 projection.

He did, though, obtain some new information from CKSD this week. There were a number of students moving into CK schools from neighboring districts and 185 transferring out of CK. The movement accounts for a net gain of about 650 students for CK schools in the 2005-06 school year, Hansen said. He will now consider this new information and how predictable such inter-district movement is.

The demographic study will be one of the ingredients of long-term budget planning for the school district.

After Hansen’s talk on preliminary findings and projections, Superintendent Greg Lynch presented an outline of the budget planning process CKSD will likely take when looking ahead to the 2007-08 school year and beyond.

In light of excess capacity in CK’s elementary schools and challenges in the capital projects budget, one of the four major subjects for consideration is school closure. A committee will be formed this summer to begin researching possibilities and is expected to present an initial report in November.

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