‘Where did kids go?’ schools ask

An enrollment drop in 10 of 14 Snohomish County districts has school leaders wondering where the students have gone.

Enrollment declined across the county by more than 300 students, slipping to 107,445, according to head counts taken by the districts last month.

What’s most perplexing is the dip is occurring while hundreds of new homes across the county are being built and moved into.

“We are all sort of in the same arena of scratching our heads,” said Arlene Hulten, a Lake Stevens School District spokeswoman.

The districts expect enrollment will rebound as families with school-age children move into the new homes.

For now, it may be that some families are passing up Snohomish County on their way to cheaper housing in surrounding areas.

“The general trend is that there is small growth in Whatcom and parts of Skagit counties and there is a reduction in San Juan and Snohomish counties,” said Jerry Jenkins, director of the Northwest Educational Service District. “I would suppose that the likely cause would be housing costs and that young people with families can stretch their dollars further.”

Other factors are also suspected, including a slower birth rate in the county five years ago. Ten of 14 districts had a smaller kindergarten classes than a year ago.

Statistics kept by the U.S. Census Bureau showed a drop of more than 1,500 school-aged children between the ages of 5 and 9 in Snohomish County between the years 2000 and 2006.

More students also are choosing online schools instead of the traditional classroom.

The Edmonds School District surveyed families earlier this year and found more than 40 students who said they were planning to enroll in an online school this fall. Edmonds is now considering starting its own online program.

“That has happened a little bit,” said Nathan Olson, a spokesman for the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. “In terms of a percentage, it’s probably not much, but it is happening.”

The state does not have statewide enrollment numbers for fall.

Projecting enrollment accurately is key for each district as more than 70 percent of its budget is based on the number of students in classrooms. Districts receive more than $5,000 from the state for each full-time student.

Housing, birth rates, population trends and job losses all figure into projections.

The Monroe School District was one of two districts to see enrollment growth in large part because of its new online school for freshmen and sophomores. The school is called Washington Virtual Academy. October enrollment was 264 for the virtual school and the plan is to add a grade each year until it is a ninth- through 12th-grade school. Students have enrolled from across the state with most from outside of the county, said Rosemary O’Neil, a school district spokeswoman.

The Monroe district also added 95 more students to its home-school program this fall, increasing enrollment there to 727.

The district grew from 6,795 in 2006 to 7,174 in 2007, an increase of 379 students.

“The only growth was in the alternative programs,” O’Neil said.

Similarly, the Marysville School District saw a slight increase in enrollment only because of a fast-growing online program that also attracts most of its students from outside the county.

“It was done out of a concern for recapturing some of the students who were dropping out,” said Larry Nyland, the district’s superintendent.

Everett School District, which opened a new elementary school in its fast-growing south end, saw enrollment increase since 2006.

In most districts, enrollment was flat with slight losses.

In Lakewood, for instance, the October head count was exactly the same as last year.

The Edmonds School District experienced the most dramatic loss, dipping from 20,725 to 20,352.

The loss of students can be costly. Edmonds estimates it lost about $1 million in state revenues because of declining enrollment. It won’t fill some vacant positions but won’t have to make layoffs either, according to a district memo.

Reporter Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446 or e-mail stevick@heraldnet.com.

Enrollment for area school districts

School district20062007





Granite Falls2,3222,314


Lake Stevens7,6007,582








Talk to us

More in Local News

The Safeway store at 4128 Rucker Ave., on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Police: Everett Safeway ex-worker accused of trying to ram customers

The man, 40, was showing symptoms of psychosis, police wrote. Officers found him circling another parking lot off Mukilteo Boulevard.

Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the 196th ST SW Improvement Project near the 196th and 44th Ave West intersection in Lynnwood, Washington on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Jarred by anti-Semitic rants, Lynnwood council approves tax increase

Three people spewed hate speech via Zoom at a council meeting this week. Then, the council moved on to regular business.

The county canvassing board certifies election results at the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
General election results stamped official by canvassing board

In Snohomish County, one hand recount will take place. Officials said ballot challenges were down this year.

The Days Inn on Everett Mall Way, which Snohomish County is set to purchase and convert into emergency housing, is seen Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Over $130M for affordable housing set to be approved by County Council

The five-year investment plan of the 0.1% sales tax aims to construct 550 new affordable units.

Two snowboarders head up the mountain in a lift chair on the opening day of ski season at Stevens Pass Ski Area on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, near Skykomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Ski season delayed at Stevens Pass due to minimal snow

Resort originally planned to open Dec. 1. But staff are hopeful this week’s snow will allow guests to hit the slopes soon.

Siblings Qingyun, left, and Ruoyun Li, 12 and 13, respectively, are together on campus at Everett Community College on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The two are taking a full course load at the community college this semester. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Siblings, age 12 and 13, are youngest students at EvCC campus

Qingyun Li was 11 when he scored a perfect 36 on the ACT test. His sister, Ruoyun, was one point away.

Edmond’s newly elected mayor Mike Rosen on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mayor-elect Rosen wants to ‘make Edmonds politics boring again’

Mike Rosen handily defeated incumbent Mayor Mike Nelson. He talked with The Herald about how he wants to gather the “full input” of residents.

Outside of Angel of the Winds Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Police arrest Angel of the Winds arena worker accused of stabbing boss

The man allegedly walked up to his employer and demanded a raise, before stabbing him in the stomach, witnesses said.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset on December 11, 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
After strike, Everett nurses, Providence agree on tentative contract

Following a five-day strike, union nurses and the hospital met to negotiate for the first time in late November.

The terminal and air traffic control tower at Paine Field are seen on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, in unincorporated Snohomish County, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s second-largest aerospace employer, ATS, names new CEO

New CEO Robert Cords will lead Paine Field-based Aviation Technical Services, which employs 800 people in Everett.

A sign showing the river levels of previous floods is visible along the Snohomish River on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Forecast holds: Flooding to hit Tuesday in Gold Bar, Monroe, Snohomish

The Snohomish River was expected to crest “just below” major flood stage late Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Chestnut mushrooms grow in a fruiting tent on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at Black Forest Mushrooms in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Fungi town: Downtown Everett home to new indoor gourmet mushroom farm

Black Forest Mushrooms will grow up to 20,000 pounds of tasty mushrooms each month. Its storefront opens Saturday at 2110 Hewitt Ave.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.