School district faces long-term effects after losing students

Pullman Public Schools projects $1.7 million loss for next school year; currently has 190 fewer students



Fifteen former Pullman Public Schools students transferred to the Colfax or Colton school districts to attend in-person learning.

MATT HOLM, Evergreen reporter

The loss of students Pullman Public Schools is experiencing will have a long-term effect on the district. 

Fifteen students transferred out of the district the day after the school board voted to delay phased reopening until Jan. 4, said Diane Hodge, finance director for Pullman Public Schools.

The students transferred to the Colfax or Colton school districts to attend in-person classes, said Stephanie Bray, principal for Franklin Elementary School.

Pullman Public Schools is operating with 190 fewer full-time students compared to the 2019 school year, Hodge said in an email. 

School districts receive state funding based on the number of students who attend school full-time in a single district, Hodge said.

State funding for Pullman Public Schools is projected to fall by $1.7 million for the next school year because the district is instructing fewer students than expected. 

“There are students who have been with us for years, or in some cases, brand-new students we’ve started a community with,” Bray said, “and just like when somebody moves out of state, it feels like you’ve lost somebody in your group.”

The decrease in students will not affect the budget given to Pullman Public Schools for this school year, Hodge said. However, continued trends of students attending schools in other districts could affect the district’s budget in the future.

“We’ve intentionally been building our reserves to support Kamiak [Elementary School], but now we’re going to have to be more conservative,” she said. “Our reserves will support that deficit, but how that’s going to look in four years is going to be a different story.”

Bray said 48 Franklin Elementary School students left to attend school in other districts.

“It’s a big number for a smaller school,” Bray said. “Forty-eight students is potentially three first-grade classrooms or two fifth-grade classrooms.”

Pullman Public Schools is currently operating in person on a limited basis. Some students with special needs such as speech therapy are attending specialized in-person classes, while all other classes are being taught remotely, Bray said.

Some students in Pullman are attending the Washington Virtual Academy, which is a free online institution provided by the state superintendent of public instruction, she said.

Bray said she appreciates Pullman Public Schools is offering the choice between online learning and in-person learning.

“We’re one of the school districts who is really listening to parents and their needs,” Bray said. “We love our kiddos and want to do what is best for them.”