Yelm Community Schools counted 5,549 full-time equivalent students enrolled for the 2023-24 school year, 81 students higher than the district anticipated in its budget. The district also tallied a headcount of 5,648 students.
These totals are the highest the district has had since the 2019-20 school year, when an average of 5,574 full-time equivalent students were enrolled. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the enrollment numbers to dip significantly, as the district recorded average annual full-time enrollment numbers of 5,203 in 2020-21, 5,219 in 2021-22 and 5,446 in 2022-23.
The district estimated 5,468 full-time equivalent students would enroll before the 2023-24 school year began. The actual total was tallied after the fourth day of school, as the district counts students who have participated in school those days. This number starts the district’s budget clock for the first half of the year.
Despite the higher enrollment, Superintendent Chris Woods said that class sizes will not be an issue for the majority of grades, with the exception of third grade. Woods said during a school board meeting on Sept. 14 that third-grade class sizes are too large at every school and that the district will need to add teachers to help with this.
Woods said he is proud of the return to pre-pandemic enrollment numbers and credits it in part to word spreading about the Yelm community and the quality of its schools.
“Yelm was the best-kept secret, but not anymore,” he said. “Word is getting out that YCS is doing some really good things and that it’s the place to be.”
Woods added that the district is already seeing an increase in enrollment from its fourth-day count. The district will provide an updated total in October to include students enrolled in the Running Start program.
Yelm Extension School has an all-time high enrollment to start the 2023-24 school year, recording 129 students — 23 higher than ever.
Of the 1,652 student headcount at Yelm High School, 446 are freshmen, 459 are sophomores, 432 are juniors and 315 are seniors.