Warden School District enrollment growing

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Feb. 12—WARDEN — During Thursday's regular Warden School Board meeting, Warden Superintendent Scott West and members of the board discussed Warden's increasing enrollment numbers and its impact on the district's future, as well as the district's levy and the board's vacant position.

The enrollment numbers for February were the highest the district has seen since before the 2019-20 school year, according to a graph provided in the meeting agenda.

"I have been sharing the last couple of months, we keep experiencing an increase in enrollment," West said. "We had a 19-student increase since the last count, which was in January. That's an increase of 34 students since September; it's well above our projections. It looks like it's the highest in a four- or five-year period, at least as far as this (chart) goes back. I think we hit 900 (students) this week."

West talked about meeting with the Warden Development Council alongside the district's IT director Jeff Kottong.

"When Jeff and I were presenting (Wednesday) at the Warden Development Council, a council member did inquire about increased enrollment and if we have the capacity for that right now," West said.

Increased enrollment could potentially strain the district's physical and financial capacity.

"Right now we do have that capacity," West said. "We have a room in a portable, we have an empty room here at the high school that's being utilized now since that art room flooded. But, if we continue to have that rapid growth, then we would have to look at expanding all sorts of resources, capacity, future bonds as far as buildings go. So we worked with the council yesterday, and if it continues, we'll be having different conversations to do with capacity."

Board member Shane Cox asked West if the increased enrollment was focused on one age range or school. West responded that the increases were spread fairly evenly between the elementary, middle and high schools.

West also discussed the district's efforts to help inform the public regarding the district's levy.

"We know the importance of our levies in order to continue to ensure a high level of services and activities for our students that aren't paid through state and federal funds outside of basic education ... We had a levy informational night scheduled and that was (Jan. 30) here at 6 p.m.," West said. "We had approximately 10 people who were able to attend that night. We felt like it was well attended with very intuitive questions."

The board then set a special board meeting for Feb. 22 at 6:30 p.m., a half-hour before the regular board meeting, to interview an applicant for the vacant School Board Position 2. Former board member Dave Whitney did not run for re-election, and the position was left unfilled.

"The position has been posted for 36 days," West said. "School districts have 90 days to fill that, and if (they don't) then there's some assistance from the (Educational Service District). I don't know what-all that entails," West said. "We have one qualified applicant, and a qualified applicant is somebody who is a U.S. citizen, they have to be a qualified voter and they also have to be a resident in District 2, and that person does meet that criteria."

Gabriel Davis may be reached at gdavis@columbiabasinherald.com. Download the Columbia Basin Herald app on iOS and Android.