Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

School enrollment dips by 150

Lake Oswego School District enrollment dropped by about 150 students this year, according to figures released by the district.

The first semester numbers were made public Wednesday and offered little relief for a district that seeks to maintain its ideal size amid a downhill slide in enrollment numbers.

Board members once again discussed the establishment of two community task forces to brainstorm ways to fight the declining student population.

Options include enhancing existing programs, marketing the district to outside students and potentially closing schools to consolidate resources.

Officials hope to recruit parents to join both committees, which will launch in November and include teachers and administrators as leaders. One will focus on school configurations, while the other will look at programming. Each committee will have 12 members from across Lake Oswego.

Their findings will help adminstrators make decisions years down the road.

'This is not immediate … we're planning ahead,' said Superintendent Bill Korach. 'But if this trend continues and we draw these numbers years down the road, it's something we're going to want to be thinking about early.'

Numbers show that school population is falling primarily at the elementary level, due to a local phenomenon known as 'aging in place.'

High property costs in Lake Oswego dissuade families with young children from settling here, while older residents tend to maintain their city residency for their lifetime.

The declining student numbers translate into a serious loss of revenue for the district, which relies on per-student state funding to the tune of $5,400 per pupil.

The state money supports nearly 83 percent of the district's $48 million annual operating budget.

At large districts like Beaverton or Gresham, 'you virtually have little opportunity to impact things quickly,' Korach said. 'We're about ideal … We're small enough that we can change and grow stronger.'

One alternative to cope with declining enrollment, Korach said, would be to market the district to home-schooled and privately schooled students. Students who live outside the district would be required to pay the district's annual tuition of $6,500.

Korach said more discussion is needed to pinpoint whether the district will place focus on students at the primary or secondary level.

'Whether we actually venture down that road or not is a good question,' he said.

Another would be to make structural changes and possibly close an elementary school.

'We need to look at what other districts are doing and see if there (is) … a more valuable use of resources,' Korach said.

The school board will begin accepting applications in October. Members will make their selections later that month.

Board member Bill Swindells suggested asking parents from outside the district to join the committees.

'Right now, we're not doing anything to attract anyone,' said Korach. 'We're simply doing a heck of a job doing what we do.'