Traditional school enrollment number climbing

But drops in alternative school, COIC result in net loss for district

CENTRAL OREGONIAN FILE PHOTO - Enrollment is increasing at Prineville's elementary schools. Traditionally funded school attendance is up 71 students in Crook County.

Although there are fewer students in the Crook County School District, attendance at most traditional schools is up — the most significant being Crooked River Elementary with 621 students, 60 more than one year ago.

“We are up a ton of kids here,” said CRE Principal Cheri Rasmussen.

The district has 2,987 students enrolled as of Sept. 12, reported district Director of Business and Finance Anna Logan, which is down seven students from a year ago.

This district total includes students in nontraditional educational settings. Five are in the Advanced Diploma program, down from 46 students a year ago. Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council reports 20 students this month but enrolled 59 a year ago. The online option has nine students, up two from last September.

Powell Butte Community Charter School remained the same with 186 students.

That’s a difference of 78 students.

“That’s why that traditional number is nice to look at,” Logan explained, pointing out that traditionally funded school attendance is up 71 students in Crook County, or 2.5 percent.

However, this bubble in elementary students is hard to explain.

“What we’ve heard about Prineville is it’s difficult to find housing here, so why there would be an increase in enrollment seems to be a contradiction,” Logan said. “We don’t know, and we don’t have that kind of data.”

She did, however, point out that when she looked at enrollment in a 10-year projection, it showed increases in elementary numbers.

Barnes Butte Elementary has 664 students — 13 more than a year ago. Crook County High School reports 792 students, an increase of 16. Brothers School has three more students than last year for a total of eight. Pioneer Alternative High School has 53 students enrolled this fall, which is 11 more than a year ago. Paulina School remains the same with 19 students. Rimrock Trails residential treatment center enrolled 16 students this month, a decrease of two from a year ago.

Interestingly enough, Superintendent Duane Yecha pointed out, the attendance at Crook County Middle School is 594 students, which is 30 less than a year ago.

“The middle school is actually a little bit lower than it was last year, but we ended up with a very large seventh grade class,” Yecha said, noting that there are about 50 more seventh-grade students than sixth graders.

Logan said this phenomenon often happens in some grade levels and there’s no explanation for it.

“That would make about 33 kids per class if we didn’t do something,” Yecha said.

The district hired a temporary seventh grade social studies and language arts teacher. Logan pointed out that they had budgeted for an extra teacher in case this situation arose.

“Those elementary numbers have given us some challenges in the last week,” Yecha said. “We have some very full elementary bus runs.”

Michelle Saavedra, the district transportation supervisor, said the buses are full but not overcrowded.

“As the year started and we started to add the kindergartners, we realized that we may have projected that one bus had 70 kids and they really only have 50, but this other bus that we projected to have 50 kids really has 80, so we had to do a little bit of shifting of what buses took which stops,” Saavedra said.

Aside from changing some bus routes and hiring a temporary seventh grade teacher, the enrollment numbers won’t change the bottom line.

“It doesn’t really affect the budget too much because we’re actually only 4 percent over budget in the traditional and 2 percent as a whole,” Logan explained. “Even though we’re up above last year, the total is in line with what we forecasted.”

With seven fewer students, the district revenue will decrease a small amount, but Logan said they budgeted for that adjustment.

One of the biggest decreases was in the number of students in the Advanced Diploma program, which decreases revenue, but then there’s an offsetting decrease to expenses because the district is not paying college tuition and books for those students, Logan said.

“So it’s kind of a wash there,” she said. “There’s not a major impact that we would need to have some kind of resulting response,” she said.

She expects the number of Advanced Diploma students to further decrease as the Oregon Promise program takes over.

“The new rules make the Advanced Diploma program a good fit for a fewer number of students,” she said.

Similarly, students in the COIC alternative education program are also expected to go down as the district expands Pioneer Alternative High School, offering more classrooms and programs.

School Board member Scott Cooper noted that looking at the grand total, it appears the district enrollment is going into deficit, but when looking at individual schools, that’s not the case.

“That’s our sweet spot for where we wanted to be in terms of school capacity for what we’ve planned for,” Cooper said. “I think it’s a pretty good report. What is driving this is the Advanced Diploma is down and COIC is down, but we knew both of those were going to happen.”

Board Chair Doug Smith agreed, but said Rasmussen’s report of 50 more students at CRE made him a little bit nervous.

“We have to keep an eye on the elementaries, but I think as long as we own the old Crooked River, we have a security blanket down the road, of some sort, as far as space,” Smith said.