Sliding enrollment, special ed expenses hitting Port Angeles School District hard

PORT ANGELES — Stagnating enrollment and an increase in students needing special education were worrisome trends when it came to its budget, the board of the Port Angeles School District was told at its meeting last week.

Director of business and operations Kira Acker said Jan. 11 the total number of students in the district dropped from 3,429 in November to 3,421 in December, although that number might tick up slightly this month.

“The two impacts on our budget are enrollment and special education,” Superintendent Marty Brewer said. “The enrollment hasn’t come in to what we expected, and one of our top legislative priorities is fully funding special education.”

Washington state allocates funds for special education based on a percent of total district enrollment. Last year the Legislature increased the cap on special education from 13.5 percent of district enrollment to 15 percent. In Port Angeles, students make up 20 percent of the enrollment and the district must cover the shortfall by dipping into levy dollars.

“If the state were to fully fund special education, it would be a game-changer for our students,” Brewer said.

Board member Sandy Long said the district and community need to advocate for students during the current 60-day Legislative session.

“We really need to put some pressure on our Legislature to fund special ed,” Long said. “I wish we could get our citizens together to get engaged in this dialogue. We need to really make it clear that it’s killing us [financially].”

Brewer said that as a “thank you” to directors for school board appreciation month, they would be guests at a luncheon prepared and served by Lincoln High School students at the yet-to-open Wildcat Café.

The café and a commercial kitchen located in the former skills center at the district administration building are part of the new Salish Sea Ecotourism and Hospitality Program.

“We have lots of CTE [career and technology education] programs, but this will be the first CTE program where you can come in as a citizen of the community, walk through the door and walk in and be served by students,” Brewer said.

The date of the café’s grand opening has not yet been announced.

In addition, the board unanimously approved moving the start time of meetings to 5 p.m. from 6 p.m. The board will next meet Jan. 25.

Also, Stevens Middle School Principal Melissa McBride introduced Storey Schmidt and Noah Oberly as the district’s students of the month.


Paula Hunt can be reached at 360-425-2345, ext. 50583, or by email at