The Winlock School District has reported a four percent decrease in enrollment, according to early figures, though such a decline had been anticipated by officials and is reflected in their current budget.
Superintendent Shannon Criss has reported 636 full-time equivalent (FTE) students were in attendance as of September, compared to 661 FTE the same time last year (though such figures had been 17 FTE greater than projected for the 2013-2014 school year).
She said administrators had built the current budget around an estimate of 637 FTE for the 2014-2015 school year, stating this consistency with their estimates means the district expects to be working with a stable budget this year.
Winlock had suffered an unexpected eight percent decrease in 2012, after having budgeted for 700 FTE and encountering only 645 FTE during their September counts. The difference had resulted in a financial shortfall requiring Winlock to eliminate 10 positions by Spring of 2013, including the principal of Winlock Miller Elementary School.
Starting this year, the elementary school again has its own principal in the form of Boyd Calder, who was hired in May, which Criss said is possible through additional state funds supporting full-day kindergarten rather than half-day kindergarten.
Criss has said recent declines in enrollment have been impacted greatly by ongoing economic challenges in the area, stating multiple families have expressed to her it is better for them to move out of Winlock rather than regularly commute out of town.
But despite downward trends in enrollment, Criss and others have pointed to new programs being offered within the district, including free breakfast and lunch for all students and free after school programs at the elementary and middle schools, as anticipated means of helping retain current enrollment figures while encouraging others to seek out the district.
"Our meal participation has increased significantly," she said. "I have had a number of thank-you's from parents who had to pay last year and now don't and that is making a difference for them."
In regard to the after-school programs, Criss has said the district is expecting to identify and begin implementing them sometime this month, and said community members can feel free to speak with district officials about the types of offerings, both scholastic and extra-curricular, they would like to see.