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Census data for schools show a slow decline in youths

The 2010 U.S. Census report shows a 7 percent decline in the 18-and-under population in Lake Oswego, and school district administrators say the data supports the decision to close two more elementary schools next year.

Last June, Palisades Elementary School became the first to close, and at the end of this school year the district plans to shut the doors at Uplands Elementary, repurpose Bryant Elementary and move the district's sixth-grade students into the two junior highs.

'We're dead on where we expected to be,' Superinten-dent Bill Korach said during last week's school board meeting.

Though the decision was driven by today's economic realities, the student population has slowly decreased over the past 10 years. Because school districts get their share of state education dollars through a formula that allocates a per-student payment, Lake Oswego schools have been paying to maintain their old configuration on a stretched dollar.

The district has taken some flack for its direction because enrollment has appeared flat for the last few years. However, Stuart Ketzler, finance director, said the data could be considered a trend and predicted.

'Our population, as a longtime trend, is not likely to grow.' More interestingly, Ketzler said, is that the under-5 crowd seems to be thinning much faster than children categorized in older groups - ages 5 to 9, 10 to 14 and 15 to 19. The city's 5-and-younger population has decreased by almost 15 percent since 2000.

'While we know there are families that will continue to move into Lake Oswego ... there isn't a large population of children that are yet to attain school age that are residents in our community that are going to be coming into our system,' Ketzler said.

At the same time, other age categories are growing. Overall, the city of Lake Oswego's population grew by 4 percent since 2000. Even the 15-to-19-year-old population is up slightly, explaining why the high school enrollment has remained relatively level, said school board member Linda Brown.

'It is apparent that we are able to attract families,' she said. 'But they might build up equity elsewhere and then move in … when they are able.'

The Census numbers aren't an exact representation of the school district, however, because they represent people living in Lake Oswego city limits. Small slivers of the district also lie in the cities of River Grove, Tualatin, West Linn and unincorporated Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties. Additionally, a small portion of Lake Oswego families living in the northern part of the city send their children to Portland Public Schools.

The school district plans to seek more information from the city planning department about where developers are building. The information should help administrators as they redraw neighborhood school boundaries. And as for the more distant future, administrators are watching for any indication that either the industrial Foothills district or the unincorporated Stafford area will be developed with new housing to accommodate more residents.