Evidence of the recent recession became apparent to the Redmond School District when about 50 fewer kindergartners than last year failed to arrive in classrooms in September.
“We have no idea what else would cause this, except lower birth rates,” said Superintendent Mike McIntosh. “Kindergarten is always the wild card, and it's never easy to predict. But before we've always seemed to add up, not down.”
To keep classrooms as balanced as possible, the district asked parents in schools with more kindergartners to move their children to a classroom with more space, he said.
“In the past, when we've had increases (above expected enrollment), we've had to mandate a change of school or classroom. ... This year it was all volunteers,” said McIntosh.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of births per 1,000 women was 69.3 in 2007; the 2012 rate was 63 per 1,000.
Growth surges were seen at the fifth-grade level in Redmond schools, prompting the addition of one teacher.
Overall, enrollment in the district increased about 1 percent from 2012, according to a report compiled Oct. 1. But McIntosh expects that soon might drop.
“Historically, high school enrollment tapers off dramatically after the first month,” he said.
Redmond's two high schools are close to equal in enrollment this year. The addition of seniors to Ridgeview High School, now in its second year, brought enrollment to within 19 students of Redmond.
The bright spot on the horizon might be Redmond's new online school for grades nine through 12. September started with 72 students, McIntosh said, and he estimates at least 50 of those were previously not enrolled anywhere in the district. By Oct. 1, however, enrollment in the program was closer to 90 and growing, he said.
Another positive sign is the growing enrollment in Redmond's two rural K-8 schools. In 2008, Tumalo had an enrollment of 425 and Terrebonne counted 461 students; by 2011, those numbers had dropped to 386 and 366, respectively. October's numbers show a steady increase, with Tumalo at 452 and Terrebonne back up to 461.
“The rural schools are in more volatile communities with more transient households,” said McIntosh. “I expect that may be a roller coaster for some time.”