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Enrollment declining at Kentlake, other schools
Enrollment has declined at three of the four Kent School District high schools in recent years, with Kentlake shrinking the most.
Excluding students who are in Kentlake’s service area but are full-time Running Start students who don’t have any classes at Kentlake, enrollment at the school is down by 150 this school year from October 2012 according, to Kent School District spokesman Chris Loftis.
Looking at data for the Kent School District comprehensive 9-12 high schools since the last boundary change that was implemented for the 2007-08 school year, enrollment has declined at Kentlake, Kentwood, and Kentridge, while Kent-Meridian enrollment has grown.
Schools’ student counts are reported to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction each October and May, which is published, along with other demographic information, on the OSPI website. Student counts reported to OSPI do include college-only running start students.
This school year Kentwood’s enrollment did grow slightly, up 43 students from Oct. 2012, Loftis said.
The peak enrollment for Kentwood since the boundary change six years ago was 2,230 students in October 2007, not including Running Start only students, and the peak enrollment for Kentlake during the same time was 1,833 in October 2008, also not including running start only students.
The October 2012 student count that was published by OSPI for Kentwood was 2,014 and for Kentlake was 1,654.
Loftis wrote in an email interview Oct. 7 that one factor affecting enrollment at Kent Schools is the proximity of other schools, particularly Auburn Mountainview High School.
“We share a border with the Auburn School District and Auburn Mountain View (sic) is right on that border,” Loftis wrote. “Thus many students who would go to KL are physically much closer to the school in Auburn. Each year we see transfers in that direction.”
This year 57 students did an in-district transfer from Kentlake to one of the other comprehensive Kent high schools, according to Loftis. Of those students, six transferred to Kent-Meridian, four to Kentridge and 47 to Kentwood. Additionally, 16 students transferred to Kent Mountain View Academy this year, and 40 transferred to Kent Phoenix Academy. Out of district transfers included 86 students who attend Auburn Mountainview, five to Auburn High School, and eight students to Tahoma.
Loftis also noted that 41 students transferred in to Kentlake this year — nine from Kent-Meridian, seven from Kentwood, and 25 from out of district.
Loftis described the transfer numbers as, “pretty typical.”
“People’s living and work conditions change and so does their attendance motivation and transportation comfort and/or capacity,” Loftis wrote in an email dated Oct. 7.
Additionally, Loftis wrote Oct. 21 that Kentlake has seen an increase in college-only Running Start students — those who are in the school’s boundary but attend Running Start full-time and have no classes at the high school — and that the district is analyzing enrollment changes.
Kentlake Principal Joe Potts said that he views the changes in enrollment at the school as a natural ebb and flow.
“Another way to think about it is a shifting of the population and demographics,” Potts said in a phone interview Monday. “We’re experiencing something that I think is pretty natural given the economic circumstances that we’ve seen in the community.”
Potts also agreed with Loftis’ view on the proximity of other schools.
“If they (students) can look out the kitchen window and see Auburn Mountainview and it’s a good school, it kind of fits,” Potts said.
Potts added that there are pros and cons to a smaller school. Among the pros he cited streamlined operations and greater efficiency and more room for students.
On the other hand, fewer students has implications for staffing at the school.
This year at Kentlake two teachers voluntarily transferred to other schools — one to Mill Creek and one to Kentwood — and 2.4 positions that were allocated to Kentlake were never filled.
“The downsides are that you don’t have the students, you don’t have the staff,” Potts said.