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Enrollment is on the rise in West Linn schools

Blends and extra teachers help address larger class sizes across the district


The numbers aren’t official yet, but early enrollment counts in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District suggest the district is growing. As a result, classrooms across West Linn are feeling the stress of extra bodies. Overall, the district seems flexible in its approach to keep class sizes optimal.

Superintendent Bill Rhoades and Deputy Superintendent Jane Stickney presented enrollment information from the first week of school during the Sept. 10 school board meeting. The school district will compared the number of students during the first week of school with the enrollment record from the past year and submit the official count to the state Sept. 20.by: JORDY BYRD - Jean McCormick teaches a K/1 blended class at Bolton Primary School. Two blended classrooms were created due to increased enrollment in first grade and low enrollment in kindergarten.

The district said open enrollment does not seem to be the cause of increased numbers.

“We are seeing a little bit of an uptick in enrollment,” said Superintendent Bill Rhoades during the meeting. “I really believe the quality of education and quality of our communities is some evidence of that families are moving to West Linn and Wilsonville.”

So far this year, 178 more students have shown up in district classrooms compared to last year; 55 additional students were counted during the first week of school in the primary schools, 25 additional students in middle schools and 98 additional students in the high schools.

However the numbers are still fairly volatile, Stickney said. Evidence of that, is that another 142 registered students failed to show up during the first week.

“We have added two teachers in order to reduce class sizes in certain hot spots,” Stickney said. “We are still looking at a couple of spots in the primary schools, but at this point with the numbers that we have, the classes that we have, perhaps all class sizes are higher than we would like.”

The school district aims to keep class sizes in the mid 20s. Currently, average class sizes vary. At both Athey Creek and Rosemont Ridge middle schools, there are 32 students, on average, in eighth-grade language arts classes. At West Linn High School, the average math class has 29 students. Numbers for science and social studies classes are at 28 students.

West Linn High School Principal Lou Bailey told parents in an email that due to increased enrollment, “The master schedule is very tight and we are now trying to balance some classes.”

Teachers and additional full-time employees have been added in primary schools. Blended classrooms have also been created where helpful. Willamette Primary School hired a new kindergarten teacher. The school also created a first/second grade blended classroom.

Principal David Pryor told parents in an email that first- and second-grade classes were larger than in years past. “Creating a new classroom is an exceptional change, however, we feel it is justified because it will allow us to bring class size down from 30 to 25 and 26,” he wrote.

Stafford Primary School Principal Jen Freeborn told parents in an email, “While we all hoped we might receive another teacher to our building, those resources were not available.

“Our first-grade classrooms had increased to 32 and 33 students. It was unfathomable to continue with these numbers. There were many options out there, yet the best option was creating a K/1 multi-age classroom.”

A surge in first-grade students at Cedaroak Park Primary School pushed classroom rosters to 29 and 30 students. In response, the school created an all-day kindergarten and first grade multi-age class. The multi-age class brought rosters down to 25 students in the two first-grade classrooms, and 23 students in the blended classroom.

“The numbers crept up through the summer and then a couple weeks before school it continued to move,” said Principal Peter McDougal. “Four to five students can make a difference in a classroom.”

McDougal said the blended classroom was invitational to families and was the best solution for his school. While administrators didn’t anticipate the influx in students, McDougal said being creative is just part of being an educator.

“We are all collectively ready to problem solve,” he said. “You always have to start the year with a certain amount of flexibility.”

Bolton Primary School also got creative with classrooms. Due to a mild increase in enrollment — and to avoid a first-grade classroom with 34 students — the school created a half-day kindergarten and two K/1 blended classrooms. The K/1 blended classrooms have 27 students each.

Due to the change, the school has hired a new teacher and transitioned a half-time employee to full time. The second-grade rosters were also higher than expected.

“We have 29 students in both second-grade classrooms,” said Principal Holly Omlin-Ruback. “It’s higher than we would like it to be.”

Omlin-Ruback said in a different economic climate, the school would have adjusted to enrollment differently. Instead, she is using her instructional aide where needed most — in larger classrooms.by: JORDY BYRD - Teacher Jean McCormick at Bolton Primary School discusses patterns in stories with her K/1 blend reading group.

“We all got hit,” Omlin-Ruback said referring to the school district. “But things are going great, kids seem happy, the parent questions have decreased, I think parents are understanding.”

Overall, the school district seems pleased with the adjusts that have been made.

“We will continue to look at spots that may be a little warm right now and decide whether a few more resources would be helpful,” Stickney informed the school board. “We feel like we have most of those numbers in a pretty good range.”

A look at the numbers

The following information provides headcounts among West Linn Wilsonville-School District classrooms:

Primary Schools

• Boeckman Creek: 535

• Bolton: 275

• Boones Ferry: 510

• Cedaroak Park: 307

• Lowrie: 399

• Trillium Creek: 453

• Sunset: 282

• Stafford: 441

• Willamette: 504

Middle Schools

• Athey Creek: 623

• Rosemont Ridge: 671

• Inza Wood: 720

High Schools

• West Linn: 1556

• Wilsonville: 1135

• Arts & Technology: 76

Charter

• Three Rivers: 103