Lake Oswego has excellent school administrators, tremendous parent volunteer participation and strong community financial support through the LOSD Foundation. The schools have consistently obtained 'exceptional' performance ratings. In addition, we see positive outcomes as the vast majority of our kids continue their studies at universities and become successful in life.
The Lake Oswego School Board has established a committee to advise the board and to help it to develop the detailed financial and cost/benefit analysis associated with different school configuration scenarios should future economic and enrollment factors constrain the district's ability to offer a full range of program in all schools. The reason for the concern is valid as enrollment continues its negative trend. The district can not operate efficiently indefinitely with this enrollment trend.
It is sensible to prepare for the future. Closing or 'reconfiguring' schools is a dramatic and traumatic step that may need to be taken. Declining enrollment means that we lose talented staff and our children will have to travel farther to school. There may be other unanticipated soft costs such as a lost sense of community. Beyond cutting programs or reconfiguring schools, what can be done?
The school board should decide to first attempt to reach out to the children who live within the district boundaries and are home schooled and then those who live within and without the district who attend private school. We should ask home school and private school families their opinions and determine why these parents make the choice to avoid the public schools and then respond appropriately, when possible, to attract those children.
We might also learn if and when the children would begin attending public school. This information could be useful for planning purposes. How might the district reach these families? We all know families that home school or send their kids to private school. Why not ask parents to deliver the message or survey directly to their friends in the community who choose alternative education methods and have them urge a response?
Given the schools' historical performance, we should also be able to recruit from the surrounding public schools. I believe that resource is ripe. The Riverdale School District must feel the same as I have recently heard radio advertisements to increase their enrollment. Do they know something we don't know? Why don't we reach out to families that are located outside of our local area whose children attend both private and public schools or those that are not connected within our community through advertisement or other means?
Let the research continue on reconfiguration, but I strongly urge the school board to at least give full efforts toward student recruitment, while there is still time, prior to implementing any reconfiguration of our successful schools. Perhaps, in time, we will find that enrollment declines will level off and we will be able to stave off cuts and closures.
Sam Goldstein is a resident of Lake Oswego.
Editor's note: Nancy Duin, communications coordinator for the Lake Oswego School District, notes: 'The Lake Oswego School Board has established a number of priorities this year to address concerns about declining enrollment: developing a plan for marketing our schools, appointing a Configuration Committee to study the financial dynamics of school configurations and appointing a Program Committee to consider other educational program offerings.'