October 8, 2008 · Updated 3:48 PM
The story in today’s issue regarding the number of Island youth who attend off-Island schools offers some concrete evidence behind what most have already guessed — that the number of students who leave Island public schools for private schools is significant and is on the rise. Island girls fill a regular school bus dispatched here each day from Forest Ridge School in Bellevue. Stories in the Reporter over the past several years have quantified declining enrollment and its effect on Island schools. Yet it seems that the number of students leaving the district has jumped recently. Superintendent Gary Plano has wisely set out to learn why by conducting a survey of families whose children attend private schools.
There are two reasons why there are fewer students in local schools. The first is demographics. The population of the Island is growing older. Fewer families with children live on the Island. Women, on average, have fewer children than in the past.
But much of the trend is due to Island families seeking what they consider is the best education for their children. Each has a different reason. Some are unhappy with how certain topics are taught. Others have special needs or want different challenges. Some seek an alternative type of atmosphere for learning. Many Island families can afford these often-pricier schools.
Declining enrollment is a problem for schools and the community that supports them. Fewer children does not necessarily mean lower costs.
The lower numbers have caused administrators to open enrollment to students from outside the district in order to bring in needed funds from the state. The number of responses that the district received speaks for itself: 250 applications for approximately 100 open spots.