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Sequim's school enrollment remains unpredictable

Torture numbers and they'll confess anything, author Gregg Easterbrook once wrote.

So it is with Sequim's student enrollment numbers, which, like most statistics involving schools and school districts, confuse rather than clarify.

School district officials budgeted for about 2,640 students this school year and saw about 75 students more than anticipated at the beginning of September, including 39 more elementary school-aged youths than expected.

"Every year (when) we put the budget together, we want to be on the conservative side," Sequim schools superintendent Bill Bentley said.

To meet staffing demands, the school district hired a half-time kindergarten teacher at Greywolf Elementary to reduce a 28-student class and a more-than-half-time teacher at Sequim High School.

Enrollment is key to school budgeting each year, as Washington schools receive state funds based on a per-student formula called apportionment. This school year, Washington state funds about $5,150 per student, according to Brian Lewis, Sequim School District's business manager.

But even with the strong showing in student numbers early on, Bentley noted projections still have a 50-student drop in the coming years, based on the graduating classes and projected incoming kindergarten classes.

"(That's) already projected in our next budget cycle," he said, noting the school district would see a $250,000 drop in state dollars.

"That's a fairly significant decline."

The uncertainty from school officials and legislators alike regarding state school funding can be tempered slightly, at least in the Sequim school district, by Lewis' projections that have Sequim schools maintaining about 2,700 students.

But while the enrollment numbers may stay steady, there are significant class size differences in grade levels, Lewis said. Consistent enrollment numbers help with budgeting, but individual schools will have to adjust staffing and resources to meet the undulating grade levels from year to year, he said.

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