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Whitefish School District questions decline in enrollment

By Rebecca Vogt, KCFW Reporter, rvogt@kcfw.com
Published On: Jan 18 2013 10:11:19 PM MST
WHITEFISH, Mont. -

Enrollment at Whitefish schools has dropped over the last 10 years - 8% at the elementary level and almost 30% in the high school. Numbers like those are troubling to several school board members.

"There's ANB - average number belonging which relates to the money we receive from the state based upon your enrollment. As that continues to drop then we look at getting less money," said board trustee Charlie Abell. "What does that mean? Means we can offer fewer programs, difficult to pay the teachers what we need to pay them."

Students say they're drawn to other districts because of advanced curriculum or stronger sports programs.

"The scholarships are a lot better there," said Whitefish HS student Rachel Dunlap, of Kalispell schools. "There's more of them. But there are also more kids there so there's less opportunity here."

The county superintendent said there are various reasons for the decrease, and she supports Whitefish's idea to find a way to track students and why they transfer out. But Abell figures it boils down to offering a better education.

"If you're not trying to become better and more successful then you're missing the boat," said Abell. "I think Whitefish has had a great, quality education and... we need to demand that."