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Enrollment down at North Mason schools

Belfair Herald of Belfair, Washington

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Fewer students this school year mean fewer state dollars

The North Mason School District launched the new school year with 20 fewer students than expected, which means about $108,000 less in state revenue and an adjustment to the district's budget.

The district anticipated 2,017 students for the 2012-13 school year, and 1,973 showed up.

The budget adjustment should be simple, North Mason School District Superintendent David Peterson said Sept. 20 at the district's school board meeting.

The district had budgeted about $60,000 to pay for a teacher if enrollment was higher than expected, and the other $48,000 probably will come out of building budgets, he said.

"I think we're going to be OK," Peterson said. "We have a problem that I believe we can take care of without a lot of drama."

The district's overall challenge is not a slight decrease in students this year, but increases in recent years that are stretching the district's core facilities, Peterson said. Overcrowding has led to 15 portable classrooms in the district.

North Mason High School was built for 400 students, and now hosts 800, the superintendent said. Particularly strained are such core facilities as the cafeteria and library, which "need to be twice as big," he said.

District officials plan to seek input from community groups about the possibility of placing a bond or levy in front of voters for capital improvements.

North Mason School District School Board President John Campbell said the district's poor science scores on state tests are not helped by crowded science classes at the high school.

"If you don't have the facilities, how can you teach it? ... Our facilities are a challenge to meeting our educational mission," Campbell said.

As for the slight decrease in enrollment, North Mason is not alone. At last week's school board meeting, Peterson pointed out that every school district in neighboring Kitsap County but Bremerton and Bainbridge Island are experiencing fewer students than anticipated.

Peterson said Mason and Kitsap counties are getting fewer families with school-age children, in part because military personnel are choosing to stay in base housing alone while the poor local economy keeps their families in houses elsewhere.

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Original Publication Date: September 27, 2012

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