(The Center Square) – The Bellevue School District is considering closing three elementary schools for the 2023-24 school year in the wake of declining enrollment.
In the last three years, the Bellevue School District has lost 1,886 students throughout its schools. This could have resulted in a $20 million drop in revenue if it were not for state and federal funds the district has been receiving.
The district found that 70% of the decrease in enrollment stemmed from its elementary schools. In return, seven elementary schools with the lowest enrollment rates are being considered to shut down next school year. The list includes Ardmore, Eastgate, Enatai, Phantom Lake, Sherwood Forest, Woodridge and Wilburton. Three of the schools could be announced as part of a consolidation plan that is set to be revealed on Feb. 9.
“I know that this is hard work [and] I realize many people will be impacted, but our goal from this is to provide the best services, supports and programs to all elementary students and not have them impacted just because they are in a smaller school than others,” Bellevue School District Deputy Superintendent Melissa deVita said in a video on the district’s website.
The loss of 100 students is equal to the loss of $1.3 million in revenue, according to deVita. That is the equivalent of costs for nine full-time staff members at the Bellevue School District. The cost per pupil at Bellevue elementary schools ranges from $7,100 at its bigger schools to over $15,000 at the smaller elementary schools. The district has similar fixed costs at each of its schools regardless of enrollment.
State funding is based on the cost to run a 400-student elementary school, according to the district. Small elementary schools are not financially sustainable with the current funding model and services. The loss of revenue has not impacted the district yet because the state has been funding all districts at pre-pandemic levels. However, in the 2023-2024 school year, the district will begin to be funded at the current enrollment levels.
“We can cut services and support in smaller schools or we can maintain student services and support and reduce the number of elementary schools to match the elementary school enrollment,” the district said in a statement.
The district’s enrollment forecast does not show enrollment increasing for the next 10 years at least. Its enrollment peaked in 1969 with over 24,000 students. It peaked again in 2019 with 20,000 students, but has since declined by nearly 1,900.
“Currently, we are not planning on selling any property, but we are pausing construction of new school buildings in order to use current facilities more fully as enrollment declines,” the district stated.