The Bellevue School District will hold listening sessions this week for families at seven elementary schools that could be consolidated to address declining enrollment.

The district is considering consolidating three of seven elementary schools it says have seen a significant enrollment decline. The news comes as the Eastside district experiences its lowest student population in years.

The elementary schools are Ardmore, Eastgate, Enatai, Phantom Lake, Sherwood Forest, Woodridge and Wilburton, the district said earlier this month.

“I recognize that these are very difficult topics because people will be impacted, and this is some of the hardest work a school district must address,” Melissa deVita, deputy superintendent of finance and operations, said in a video shared Jan. 11 with school administrators and staff.

Seattle school enrollment levels off, but district still faces budget woes

The district has lost students since 2019, when 20,295 students were enrolled in schools. In October 2022 the district had 18,409 students, the lowest count since 2010. DeVita said enrollment is projected to decline for the next 10 years to a low of 16,000 students. Each high school grade level has about 1,600 students, compared with 1,200 students in each elementary grade.


A demographic consultant for the school district pointed to three main causes of enrollment declines: the COVID-19 pandemic, millennials having fewer children than previous generations and escalating housing costs.

Impacts from the pandemic — when districts lost students who moved to private or home school environments — and lower birthrates aren’t unique to the school district. But in the Bellevue area, most young families with children can’t afford homes with a median price of $1 million. While more additional housing units are being developed, far fewer occupants have children than the district initially projected, Shannon Bingham, a demographic consultant from Western Demographics, said in a district recording shared with families.

Enrollment in private schools within the Bellevue School District boundaries increased by at least 430 students from the 2018-19 school year to the 2021-22 school year, according to data from the Washington state Board of Education.

Sherwood Forest Elementary had 390 students in the 2021-22 school year, a loss of 115 students from a peak in the 2016-17 school year, according to data from the state superintendent’s office. The small size and fact that it’s a neighborhood elementary is a plus to Beka Anardi, whose two children attend the northeast Bellevue school.

“People know each other and are involved, the principals know who I am, it’s a nice, friendly community,” she said. “That’s really important. That makes a difference in my kids’ education.”

Sherwood Forest and Ardmore elementary schools are Title I schools, which receive extra federal funds because they serve a high percentage of low-income students. At Sherwood Forest, 44% of students, and 36% of Ardmore students, were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch last year, compared with an average of 17% at the district’s elementary schools, according to district data. Anardi questioned why other schools with fewer numbers of low-income students weren’t on the consolidation list.


“Over and over again they have pandered to the wealthy families,” she said.

District spokesperson Janine Thorn said the district is committed to equitable services for all students, and consolidating schools ensures every student has access to programs.

“Consolidating schools because of the drop in enrollment makes sure we can do that, and be fiscally responsible in doing so,” she said.

All staff members will be retained, Thorn said, and school buildings will also remain in use, though she wouldn’t elaborate how the district would use the facilities.

The Bellevue School Board is expected to hear a report at its regularly scheduled Feb. 9 meeting.