WENATCHEE — Back-to-school preparations are in full swing.
The first day of school for Wenatchee students is Aug. 27. Eastmont students’ first day is Aug. 28.
Both school districts are anticipating a slight drop in enrollment overall, according to officials, but the final tally remains to be seen.
“We built a budget in anticipation of an enrollment decline,” Eastmont Superintendent Garn Christensen. “We projected the same negative 0.5% at all grades, with a greater decrease in grades 11-12 in recognition of students who do Running Start.”
Wenatchee is projecting a 1% drop, though individual schools vary. This year, a new portable has been added to Sunnyslope Elementary to handle last year’s influx of kindergartners, who will be first graders this year.
The decline in enrollment numbers is a topic of discussion region-wide. Christensen said he attributes the decline to the economy, including the long-term effects of the Alcoa shutdown and housing cost increases that keep younger and lower-income families out of the local housing market.
“There are many new houses being built in East Wenatchee,” he said. “However, many of those are being bought by retirees moving into our area.”
Even so, the district is hedging its bets.
“Our leadership team and board of directors are taking a very conservative approach to growth until we see what unfolds in the next few years,” Christensen said. “Our board did purchase land in the southeast part of the district where a lot of growth has been occurring for long-term (10-plus) year needs. We also have one site off of 8th Street behind our district office that can be used for a future elementary when needed.”
For the current year, things are moving forward.
Wenatchee school offices reopened for business Wednesday and teachers started preparing their classrooms for the year. An all-district staff and teacher opening-day event is set for 7:30 to 11 a.m. Tuesday at Wenatchee High School. In addition to an address from new Superintendent Paul Gordon, the event includes a presentation on “The Why Behind Social Emotional Learning.”
In Eastmont, teachers are following suit, getting ahead of the training sessions starting next week, culminating with the Aug. 26 all-staff opening day training.
Garn Christensen said the buildings and grounds are looking good.
“All buildings undergo a top to bottom thorough cleaning, with additional repairs as needed. Thanks to the rain we have received over the last few weeks, our grounds and fields are looking better than ever.”
Wenatchee’s seven elementary schools and three middle schools are planning open houses to give students and parents a chance to meet teachers and administrators. The high schools and Wenatchee Valley Technical Skills Centers are planning events later.
Here’s the breakdown, though school officials say dates are subject to change, so it’s best to check with the individual schools.
Newbery and Columbia: 5-6 p.m. Wednesday
Mission View: 5:30-7 p.m. Wednesday
Sunnyslope: 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday
Washington: 6-7 p.m. Thursday
Lewis & Clark: 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday. The school also is hosting an informational session at 5 p.m. Wednesday on the school’s dual language program, with a presentation by Richard Gómez, a bilingual education expert and researcher.
Lincoln: 6-7 p.m. Monday (Aug. 26)
Orchard: 4-7 p.m. Monday (Aug. 19)
Pioneer: 7-8 p.m. Thursday
Foothills: 5-6:30 p.m. Wednesday for grades 7 and 8; 9:30-11:30 a.m. Aug. 26 for sixth grade.
WestSide: 3-6 p.m. Aug. 29 at Sage Hills Church
Wenatchee High School and Wenatchee Valley Technical Skills Center: 5 p.m. Sept. 17
For information on orientation times for Eastmont schools, check the school websites.
Other school districts in Chelan and Douglas counties are following similar schedules. Lake Chelan schools will start after the Labor Day holiday. All the other districts are starting the week before.