Wahluke goes back-to-school

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MATTAWA — Students in Mattawa’s Wahluke School District had their first day of classes last Tuesday, and with another school year comes another round of changes at schools across the state. What’s new at Wahluke?

There were 2,543 students enrolled at the Wahluke School District this school year, down 32 students from the 2017-2018 school year. The decrease in students is mostly due to lower preschool enrollment, as there are 73 fewer students enrolled this year.

A surge in middle school students — up 45 students, mostly from a larger eighth grade student body — help make up some of the student loss. These numbers are likely to change slightly as final enrollees are accounted for.

Despite a nominal downswing in student enrollment, the district hired around 35 new certificated employees. Many of those served to replace vacant positions, but some were hired to fill expanded departments, including several fifth grade teaching positions.

The district also hired two new counselors, one each for elementary and high school students, raising the district-wide total to nine, averaging 282 students per counselor. That’s almost half the statewide average of 482 students per counselor during the 2014-2015 school year, according to research by the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the American School Counselor Association.

Wahluke Junior High has also recently undergone a major makeover, with radical murals by Washington-based artist Izaya Colson adorning nearly every wall and corner in the school. Principal Andrew Harlow said he hopes to see the visual renovation improve student engagement and attendance.

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