Olympia schools under enrolled

June 6th, 2010 by Ken

There are two things that school districts hate to do.  That is changing school boundaries and closing schools.

Parents come out in droves and school board members almost always feel the impact on election day.

That must be the reason the Olympia School District doesn’t want to face the fact that many of its elementary schools are under enrolled and that adjusting school boundaries and/or closing some schools is far past due.

The district has 11 elementary schools.  Because of shifting patterns and other demographic elements, nine of those 11 schools are under enrolled.  They house fewer students than their designed capacity.

Two schools – – Centennial and Hansen – – have far more students than the school was designed to handle.  The district has moved portable classrooms onto those school sites to house the overage.

The nine schools with fewer students than capacity are:  Boston Harbor, designed for 197 has 191.  (All figures are from March 2010)

L.P. Brown was designed for 370 students and now has 299.  Garfield was designed for 396 and has 353.  Lincoln at 345 has 283.

McKenney 421 designed has 401.  McLane 322 has 281.  Pioneer designed for 371  has 363.  Roosevelt at  420  has  413.

And then there’s the case of Madison Elementary.  It was designed for 247 and has only 149 students.

Madison is a special case.  It has a reputation of being the “homeless” school.  Because of that, some parents living in the school’s boundaries send their children to another school.

The principal at Madison is only a part time principal and works in the district office part time.  Boston Harbor also has a part time principal.

Altogether the Olympia district has excess capacity of 356 students at its nine elementary schools.  Yet, the district is putting in portable buildings to house students at the two schools with more students.

The most prudent thing to do and one that would cost the district the least amount of money is redraw the school district boundary lines to even out the enrollment.

That of course causes heartache for parents and heart burn for administrators.

The other alternative is to close one of the elementary schools.  It would appear that Madison would be the first on the chopping block since it’s under enrolled by nearly 100 students.

But Madison is one of the newer schools and it does house many homeless students.  At some times 30 percent of its small enrollment is in that category.  (Editors note:  Since this article was first written, the school district has decided to keep Madison open for another year.)

Olympia School District spokesman Peter Rex told me that while some of the schools appear to be significantly under capacity, “there are often extra classrooms as we house special programs  that serve students with exceptionable needs or use those rooms for things like orchestra practice.”

Olympia enjoys great support from its parents and from the community.  The district has very little trouble passing school  levies or bond issues.

Part of that is due to the great school system, but part of it is also due to the fact that district refuses to make tough decisions which might upset some parents.

That’s not leadership. 

(Editors note:  This story ran first in the April 2010  newsletter edition of Kens’ Corner and The Real News.  For subscription information call 456-8964.)

Posted in Government, Informational, Local Politics, The Real News

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