Crook County numbers have increased, but mostly due to the presence of the locally based online school

Oregon’s public school enrollment has reached an all-time high, and the numbers in Crook County have as well.

However, local numbers have been boosted significantly by the growing enrollment in a locally based online school.

The latest state Fall Membership Report, published by the Oregon Department of Education, shows enrollment has increased to 567,098 students, up 0.6 percent, or 3,384 students, when compared to 2013.

All students in kindergarten through high school, enrolled in public, alternative, or charter schools were counted. Students enrolled in private school were not counted unless financed with public money.

“With more students in our schools, I feel an even greater sense of urgency around improving our education system so that each and every one of those 567,098 students has the chance to excel,” said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. “As I look at these enrollment numbers, I think of all of the promise and potential within each of our students. Our task — as educators, parents, community members, and policy makers — is to do whatever is necessary to help each of our students fulfill that potential.”

Crook County school enrollments joined over 55 percent of the state’s districts that experienced increased enrollments. The 6-percent jump, far above the state average, led to a student population of 3,349, up from 3,153 the previous year, and a net increase of 196 students.

Crooked River Elementary School’s enrollment remained constant at 320 students; Ochoco Elementary saw their count increase to 386, up from 372; Paulina School’s enrollment decreased slightly to 26, down from 29; Powell Butte Community Charter School’s enrollment remained steady at 186; Crook County Middle School’s student body decreased to 608 from 620; Cecil Sly’s student population increased to 448, from 434, and Crook County High School's enrollment increased to 841, up from 809.

A smaller number of students were enrolled in alternative education. There were 32 students in CCSD, another 42 in the COIC Skill Lab, 54 are attending the Pioneer Secondary Alternative High School, and 25 are associated with the Insight School of Oregon’s Online Alternative School.

The largest increase in students, however, resulted from the district’s sponsorship of the local Insight School of Oregon Charter that enrolled an additional 381 students.

Anna Logan, finance director at the Crook County School District, explained the numbers.

“The vast majority of our enrollment increase is attributable to the Insight Charter School that we now sponsor [as of Sept. 2013],” she said, adding that the students enrolled in the virtual school access the school's curriculum via the internet.

“That is a lot of kids,” she said, “but the students and their families live outside of Crook County, as Insight is not a traditional ‘brick and mortar’ school.”

Logan went on to say that because the students are not physically located in Crook County, there is no economic impact to the community, nor a significant financial obligation on the part of the district.

According to its website, Insight is “part of a network of online schools offering part-time and full-time elementary, middle school, and high school curriculums. This online alternative accommodates students, and their families, that may live in very rural areas of the state.”

When these 381 students are removed from the 196 student increase, the district enrollment actually netted a loss of 185 students.

Logan did acknowledge that the Insight charter option is indicative of the continued rise of non-traditional education, as well as the rural nature of the state.

“These are families that live in remote areas of the state or who are partially home-schooled. It works as an advantage for both types of students,” she noted.

More relevant to the traditional school setting, ODE notes that demographic trends, including free or reduced lunch students, at over 50 percent, and students of color, at 35 percent, remained unchanged. In Crook County, approximately 57 percent of students are enrolled in the lunch program, and minorities comprise 25 percent of the district’s population.

The report also indicated that the fastest growing student segment is Hispanic, rising to 22 percent overall, and 15 percent in Crook County.

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