As the prospect of closing Bryant and Uplands elementary schools next year nears, it is somewhat reassuring for the Lake Oswego School District that the downward trending enrollment in Lake Oswego has continued as a gentle descent.

Last year's official Oct. 1 count was 6,767, and the preliminary count last week was 6,751.

'It's good news that we haven't brought more enrollment than we were expecting,' said Superintendent Bill Korach. 'It's right in line with what we've been planning for.'

That said, the decline isn't too dramatic, as it has been during past economic hardships as people moved away in search of work, said Korach, recalling the early 1980s.

Of course, Korach would like to have more students, but the information gleaned from last week's head counts will help administrators plan for implementing the second phase of what the district is referring to as Scenario B, which will close two elementary schools and transition the junior high schools into middle schools.

While the district had seen a decline in enrollment since the 1990s, the last few years have remained relatively flat.

Instead, part of that decline in student population is reflected in the number of students attending Lake Oswego schools who do not live within the district boundaries. So far, there are 133 of those students this year; 64 of them pay tuition, while 22 are a part of a mutual transfer agreement the district has with Riverdale School District.

That number is slightly down from last year, as districts are more reluctant to grant transfers in the current economy, explained Korach. 'Districts are not allowing transfers anywhere near as generous as they used to ... because the economics are so tight,' he said.

If a local district approves a student transfer agreement, the state funding follows them to their new school district.

'It also makes sense that if you still want to come here, your avenue is to pay tuition,' said Korach. Still, not enough parents are willing to pay tuition to make up for the loss of transfers.

The district will finish an official count on Oct. 1 as any population shifting around after the start of school settles down.

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