Rapid enrollment growth continues, increases need for classroom space
Lake Washington School District’s enrollment grew by 1,114 students last year, from 26,716 students in 2014 to 27,830 on October 1, 2015. The enrollment increase this year moved Lake Washington from sixth largest district in the state to fourth largest. Lake Washington passed both Evergreen School District and Kent School District. It trails only Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma School Districts in size.
This year’s increase follows five straight years of enrollment increases. The increases averaged about 625 students per year, or the size of a large elementary school. This upward trend began in the 2009-10 school year after a decade of little change in enrollment.
Part of the increase from 2014, about 339 students, is due to a change in the accounting process for students who are enrolled in the Washington Network for Innovative Careers (WANIC). WANIC is a skills center serving seven districts. It offers advanced level Career and Technical Education programs. As the host district, LWSD is now required to count these students in its enrollment. Excluding WANIC and the district’s Parent Partnership Program, the district’s actual enrollment was seven students less than the projection used for budgeting purposes.
Enrollment growth is forecasted to continue. The district is projected to grow to more than 30,000 students by 2020-21.
“As our cities grow, so does our enrollment,” noted Dr. Traci Pierce, superintendent. “We are fortunate to serve vibrant, attractive communities where people want to live and work. With this growth comes the challenge to provide classroom space to so many additional students.”
A community task force has worked since December 2014 to develop recommendations for long-term strategies the district can use to address the challenges of additional classroom capacity as well as aging schools. This task force is in the process of finalizing its recommendations. It is expected to present them to the district’s Board of Directors in November.