Enrollment falls in Chimacum as parents keep kids home due to COVID pandemic

Posted 10/9/20

Enrollment in Chimacum public schools has dropped by roughly 100 students, Acting District Superintendent David Engle told the school board at its last meeting.

Engle said he wasn’t going to …

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Enrollment falls in Chimacum as parents keep kids home due to COVID pandemic

Posted

Enrollment in Chimacum public schools has dropped by roughly 100 students, Acting District Superintendent David Engle told the school board at its last meeting.

Engle said he wasn’t going to gloss over the bad news.

“Our enrollment is down 12.8 percent, which is about 100 students; 99 to be exact. Which is a significant decline,” Engle said.

This year’s enrollment has plummeted largely due to parents keeping their children at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Engle notified district staff earlier of the drop-off, and told the school board he had been seeking input from staff on how the district could “recapture” students who had not returned to school when classes started in September.

“It looks to me like we’re down nine to 10 students at each grade level,” Engle said.

The decline in enrollment has been more severe in the kindergarten and eighth grade.

Parents of kindergartners, perhaps as many as 20 families, Engle added, “are deciding to hold onto their kindergartners a little longer and ride this COVID out.”

He added that he was unsure why the decline in the number of returning eighth-grade students was also worse than other grade levels.

He said Chimacum currently has just 37 students in eighth grade.

Expanding programs may help curtail declining enrollment.

Engle noted that full-day kindergarten, four days a week, started Oct. 5.

“I think that’s going to bring people back.”

The district is also looking at a cohort of students to take an elective class, wood shop, on Wednesday.

A food-and-horticulture class is also being considered.

Another exciting program is eSports, Engel said, which is described as organized, multiplayer video game competitions. The district began exploring the idea last year.

The district has since decided to pay a stipend to an advisor to lead an eSports program, and Charles Fornia, who teaches computer science and media for middle and high schoolers, will be the general manager for Chimacum eSports.

“We think that this will be another activity for kids to reengage them with the school,” Engle explained.

Engle praised the work of teachers and staff and their ability to adapt to COVID-caused changes.

The music program is undergoing adjustments due to the prohibition against singing and blowing into instruments; food service and lunch schedules have had to change; physical education and custodial work has been adjusted. 

“That’s just mind blowing when you think about how responsive people have been, and how adaptable and flexible they’ve been. Every time I walk by a special area like that, I think, ‘Wow. Who would have known?’”

Despite the disappointing enrollment numbers, Engle ended his report on an optimistic note.

“I operate from a position of hope and not one of despair,” Engle told the board during its Zoom meeting.

“I encourage you to be that way, too. I think we’re going to craft our way out of this crisis with a new spirit and better outcomes for all,” he said.

During the following public comment session, Ann Abraham, a flexible learning teacher for Chimacum Schools, agreed.

“Our teachers are spending hours and hours and hours making this right for our students,” Abraham said. “It’s amazing to me to see what they can produce. And they still stress about it’s not enough.”

“Everybody is reaching way beyond what could ever be imagined for our kids, and I want to say thank you,” she added.

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