According to an email sent out by the Bellevue School District, a presentation was made in January to the Bellevue School Board to consolidate three of the seven elementary schools to stabilize elementary enrollment. The schools that have experienced the greatest enrollment decline to date include Ardmore, Eastgate, Enatai, Phantom Lake, Sherwood Forest, Woodridge, and Wilburton Elementaries.
The school explained that they are fully committed to hearing from and partnering with their communities at each of the potentially affected schools. The email reads, “Any discussion of closure or consolidation due to district enrollment decline is difficult and understandably elicits strong emotions from all involved.”
Staff sessions were held during the week of January 16th as part of the district’s engagement efforts at the seven schools with potential impacts. These engagement opportunities were to provide stakeholders an opportunity to share with staff the impact on their individual school communities.
If the district does not consolidate elementary schools, staffing throughout the district will have to be reduced, resulting in layoffs. The district would need to eliminate or reduce staff and student services which could include reductions in interventionists, co-teachers, librarians, assistant principals, curriculum developers, maintenance, paraeducators, secretaries, general school assistants, and ITCLs.
Without the reduction of schools, schools would have more mixed grade classrooms at small schools to keep class sizes closer to targets in the negotiatied agreements.
The enrollment forecast does not show enrollment increasing for at least 10 years. School districts experience a 20-25 year cycle of enrollment increased and decreased, according to the BSD’s website. In Bellevue, enrollment peaked in 1969 with over 24,000 students. Over the next 21 years, enrollment dropped to under 15,000 students. It then remained flat until 2000 when it increased and peaked again in 2019 with 20,000 students. To accommodate these changes in the past, the school district closed schools and sold property. There are no plans to sell any properties at this time.
Bellevue School District has lost almost 1,900 students in the last three years. This has resulted in a $20 million drop in revenue. Up until this point, the state was funding all districts at pre-pandemic levels. As of the 2023-2024 school year, the district will begin to be funded at the current enrollment levels.
A final recommendation to the Board is set for February 9th at their regularly scheduled meeting. Affected community members are invited to give their feedback through the “Let’s Talk” platform by clicking on the “Planning for the Future” button.