Bend-La Pine Schools expects its student population to grow by 175 this upcoming school year, continuing a trend the district has seen for nearly three decades.
The district has grown almost constantly since 1986, with year-to-year enrollment dipping only slightly in 2009. Last year, the district added about 260 students. Since 2009, the district has added over 1,000.
The 175 figure is an estimate built on birth rates in the area from five years ago. That cohort, which will enter kindergarten this year, isn’t the only source of growth. The district is also tasked with estimating how many students will be moving into the district and how many students will be transitioning from private or home school into the public system.
“The estimates are generally accurate,” said Chief Operations and Financial Officer Brad Henry. “That 175 figure is about a 1 percent increase, so I would say generally we are within a quarter or one-half of a percent. There have been years we’ve missed by more than that. In the really high growth years, around 2005, we predicted something like 300 and had closer to 500. Surprises do happen.”
Henry described estimating the number of families moving to the region during the summer as “more of an art than a science.”
“We get a feel for what is happening in the community in terms of new homes and talk to developers to try and see if it’s families or retirees who are buying,” Henry said.
The district expects the majority of growth to come from families new to the region.
The new kindergarten class is projected at 1,209 students, only 61 students larger than the senior class that just graduated, meaning 114 of the expected 175 students are part of an influx to the system.
Just as important as numbers, however, is location, as where families move can affect which schools become crowded. At the beginning of the last school year, 17 of the district’s 27 buildings were at, near or over capacity.
“Just from driving around town, you see a lot of building everywhere,” Henry said. “We expect growth in the southeast and northeast, and certainly in the NorthWest Crossing neighborhood. But, again, the question is really, ‘Who’s buying?’”
For families who do move to the area, the district is urging parents to register their children before school starts on Sept. 3. Most of the district’s middle and high schools will have registration days listed on their websites, but for elementary schools, parents can come into their neighborhood school any weekday before class starts.
“There’s a packet of paperwork we need to have filled out, and parents should plan to be in the school for 20 or 30 minutes,” said La Pine Elementary Principal Tammy Doty. “They should bring proof of address, like a piece of mail or a driver’s license. They should also have immunization records, and if they’re kindergartners or new to public schools, they should have a birth certificate.”
Doty said every year some kids arrive on day one without being registered, and the parents are required to complete the same forms before their child is placed into a class. If they come on the first day of school, the student can usually be placed that day, but if it’s later in the year, there is usually a day wait.
“It can cause problems, because, for one, if we don’t know how many students are coming, we may not have enough teachers,” Doty said. “We’re fortunate in my school to have plenty of space, but some schools are crowded already, and additional students on top of that could be difficult for a school. We want to be sure we’re ready for all the kids and have enough materials and teachers.”
Students also directly benefit from early registration, Doty said, as her school invites kindergartners for an assessment before class begins, allowing teachers to create “balanced classrooms.”
“We look at a variety of things, such as literacy, math, the ability to follow directions and focus,” Doty said. “With that information, we try to build classrooms that have a variety of students.”
— Reporter: 541-633-2160, firstname.lastname@example.org