The Bellevue School District (BSD) is considering plans to consolidate several elementary schools due to declining enrollment, according to NPR.
A letter sent to families states that one proposal is to merge three of the seven schools with the largest declines in enrollment, which include Ardmore, Eastgate, Enatai, Phantom Lake, Sherwood Forest, Woodridge, and Wilburton elementary schools.
The district plans to hold a series of staff engagement sessions and open houses for impacted families and community members in the upcoming month.
The final recommendation to the Board will be presented on February 9th, 2023.
The district recognizes that these changes may cause concern for students, staff, and families but is focused on ensuring that students are supported, and the educational process continues.
The decline in enrollment is not unique to BSD alone, as districts throughout the western region are facing similar challenges. According to the BSD Demographic and Enrollment Future Trends, factors such as decreasing birth rates, losses stemming from the recent outbreaks of disease, smaller elementary grade sizes, and rising housing costs are all contributing to the decline. Washington state’s birth rate is among the lowest in the country, ranking 20th out of all states.
Additionally, the increased competition from private and alternative schools for a shrinking pool of students has further impacted enrollment numbers.
Forecasts predict that this trend will continue over the next decade.
Despite an increase in housing development, these new units have not resulted in a corresponding increase in enrollment. This trend is particularly evident in the four King County school districts that are adjacent to BSD, as they too have experienced a decline in enrollment.
During the past eight years, elementary grade sizes have drastically decreased while secondary grades have grown, although this trend was disrupted by disease outbreaks.