January 13, 2023: Please read the latest update on this topic
Melissa deVita, BSD’s Deputy Superintendent of Finance and Operations shares information regarding declining enrollment at BSD and its current and future impacts across the district. This video and the information that follows is a continuation of a series around building community solutions. It is preceded by the Demographic and Enrollment Study article that discusses housing growth and cost, birth rates in the area, historical enrollment, and other factors that explain the past and predict the future of enrollment levels at BSD.
Navigate the video topics using these time stamps:
- 0:14 – Presentation overview
- 1:10 – Capacity utilization
- 1:32 – Growth of Bellevue
- 1:50 – Reference to corresponding BSD demographic and enrollment study
- 2:24 – Housing development vs. enrollment growth
- 3:00 – Cost of housing in Bellevue
- 3:43 – Impacts of enrollment on neighboring districts
- 5:37 – Enrollment history
- 6:42 – Enrollment by grade level
- 8:20 – What the future could look like
- 9:22 – Open enrollment
- 9:51 – Enrollment loss impacts (programs, facilities, funding)
- 12:51 – Funding vs. Expenses
- 15:30 – 2020 bond election
- 17:06 – 2018 housing study vs. 2022 housing data
- 18:41 – Community committee facility strategy
- 19:11 – Pausing construction and alternatives
- 19:29 – Action steps
- 20:12 – Developing a multi-year plan
- 20:31 – Setting expectations
- 20:52 – Community Feedback – Talk – Building Community Solutions
- Enrollment is declining throughout the region and the western United States.
- Declining enrollment significantly impacts school district finances in Washington.
- As schools get smaller, it is harder to meet student, family and community needs.
- Smaller schools are less efficient and harder to sustain for students, community and staff.
- Capacity utilization will average 66% if enrollment drops to forecasted levels.
- School districts are accountable to our community to spend funds responsibly.
Impacts of Declining Enrollment at BSD
Enrollment losses impact the district in multiple ways, and none of them stand alone. Three key areas that impact each other are:
- As schools get smaller, it is harder to offer all services students need.
- A variety of electives cannot be offered at middle and high schools when classes aren’t filled.
- Inclusion is difficult to implement with fidelity.
- Small schools are operationally inefficient when it comes to staffing and maintenance.
- Extra capacity in buildings – projected average capacity is expected to drop to about 66%.
- Stewardship of taxpayer dollars needs to be considered in decision making.
- District must avoid overbuilding by considering whether we should build or use the facilities we already have.
- 80% of district funding is tied to enrollment.
- When enrollment drops, funding drops immediately, but expenses decline at a slower rate.
- Inflation further erodes purchasing power.
Reductions are needed throughout the district – some have already been done through staff attrition over time, with the intent to prevent layoffs
Changes to the Proposed 2020 Bond Project
In 2018, a community committee was formed to formulate a long-term facility strategy for the district by studying enrollment trends, community expectations and district programs. This led to a 2020 bond request for $675 million, which Bellevue voters generously supported. Due to changes in enrollment and the impacts outlined above, the district must now consider alternatives to the original plan – particularly around projects that have not yet been started in order to further support fiscal responsibility.
What has changed?
- Enrollment had been steadily growing.
- Enrollment was anticipated to remain flat, with 20,300 students in 2028.
- Building capacity utilization averaged 83.3%.
- Bond recommendations focused on improving buildings that were below BSD standards.
- Construction inflation was at 6% per year.
- Enrollment has dropped to 18,400 students.
- Enrollment is forecasted to continue to drop to 16,000 by 2031.
- Building utilization of current facilities has dropped to 75.7%.
- Capacity utilization is expected to drop to 65.9% by 2031 with no additional construction, creating the option to consider repurposing schools rather than replacing schools, utilizing the facilities and assets we currently have.
Implications and Opportunities
BSD is considering many paths forward and is committed to working together to figure out how to best serve students and families in a changing environment. Next steps and considerations include:
- Offering specialized curriculums including heritage languages, global competency, re-imagining middle schools, etc. to better serve all students.
- Updating the facility plan to better leverage buildings we have:
- Pause new building construction
- Assess opportunities to repurpose buildings
- Developing a multi-year plan to ensure financial stability and stewardship of public funds.
The district will share more information on its plans to address declining enrollment as decisions are made and a full plan is ready for community review. More information will be shared at the January 12, 2023, School Board meeting and directly with BSD families and staff throughout January and February. The community at large is also encouraged to visit the district website for the latest updates.
Language Access Support
Do you need support accessing this content in another language? BSD families have a right to receive important information from schools in a language they can understand. Bellevue School District must provide interpretation and/or translation services, when needed, to communicate with parents who have limited English (including parents with limited speaking, listening, reading or writing fluency in English). Learn more about Language Access services at BSD.