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Slower-than-expected growth stalls Klahowya expansion plans

If things had gone according to plan, Klahowya Secondary School would have expanded by this time.The Central Kitsap School District (CKSD) originally planned to add another building at the school to house an expected influx of students sometime in the early part of the new millenium.Instead, since it opened in September 1997, the school has hovered near its capacity of 975 students. The district is not currently planning to expand the west Central Kitsap school.I don't think it's met projections at all. Years ago we thought there would be phenomenal growth in this area, but it hasn't happened, said Katharine Gleysteen, the school's first-year principal.District officials originally planned to add on to Klahowya, including a new gymnasium, two or three years after it opened. A second building was planned for 2002 or 2003. The school's water and sewer systems were built to accommodate the growth, said Lee Marcum, the school's founding principal and now CKSD director of secondary teaching and learning.That was based on 7 percent growth rate, if that had continued, but since then we have leveled out and even declined, Marcum said. So what changed? Why hasn't the school population increased as rapidly as predicted?Two factors seem to have influenced the school's slower-than-anticipated growth - the implementation of a growth management plan with an aim to eliminate sprawl, and a district-wide decrease in enrollment.When the school was planned, growth management was not in place, said Jeanie Schulze, CKSD spokeswoman. Klahowya, a combined junior high and high school, serves a large but sparsely populated area.The state Growth Management Act and approval of the county's comprehensive land-use plan changed the face of the housing market, and disappointed middle- class buyers who traditionally have wanted to build on one or two acre lots in rural areas.In the past, speculators bought large tracts of land in the rural area Klahowya serves with plans to subdivide them into smaller lots for houses. But growth management put a stop to that when it set the urban growth boundary east of Dickey Road, leaving Klahowya in a designated rural area.Growth Management Act (GMA) rules aimed for lower population density in rural areas, said Robert Alire, a senior urban planner with the county Department of Community Development. The minimum size for a housing plot increased from one acre to between five and 20 acres per home in Klahowya's coverage area, and restrictions were put on sewer hook-ups.Alire takes the the school's slow growth as an indication that growth management has been successful.It was the aim of GMA to direct growth, with 70 percent in urban growth areas, Alire said.Another explanation for Klahowya's sluggish growth is declining student enrollment in the district. Since 1999 the district has lost 318 full time equivalent (FTE) students - something bound to affect the population count at Klahowya.Transfers from others schools in the district actually have increased KSS enrollment this year, Marcum said. But the school won't be able to take many more tranfer students without going over capacity.In years past, the number of students transferring into the school was roughly equal to the number who transferred out, but this year the balance tipped, with more students coming to Klahowya.There are advantages to attending at a smaller school, Gleysteen said.For one thing, both Central Kitsap and Olympic high schools cut several players from their girls soccer teams this fall. Klahowya did not even get enough players to form a junior varsity team.Here we can use kids who would have been cut at other schools - in terms of athletics we could use more students, Gleysteen said.

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