Warren school open to students from neighboring districts

WilebskiThe Scappoose School District Board voted Feb. 20 to allow students from other districts to enroll in its schools through March, only capping enrollments in the event grade levels reach capacity.

The action is allowable under a 2011 Oregon Senate bill that permits parents to enroll their kids in any Oregon public school district, as long as the district is accepting transfers at the time.

Jeff Wilebski, lead teacher at Warren Elementary School, said the school is open to receive 100 students this month. Overall, the district could accept 310 students, Wilebski said, adding he anticipates the district will see new students from neighboring districts.

While all the district’s schools are allowing enrollment from outside the district, Scappoose School District Superintendent Stephen Jupe said Warren Elementary in particular is declining in numbers. Jupe confirmed the district has no current plans to close Warren Elementary despite its declining numbers.

“What we’ve been thinking about is, ‘What can we do with Warren that can make it more economically viable?’” Jupe said. “The idea of closing a school is something that nobody likes.”

Aside from Warren Elementary, the district’s only kindergarden through third-grade school is Grant Watts Elementary School, which Jupe said is nearly at capacity.

“Grant Watts is nearly full, so I’m not sure what we’d do with all the extra kids,” Jupe said.

The school district wouldn’t immediately benefit by having more students, Jupe said, but it could see budgetary gains in the future should it maintain a balance or see an increase in numbers.

Since school budgets are calculated on prior enrollment figures, a school declining in numbers might have money available in the immediate future, but would eventually notice a loss in its budget, Jupe said.

Jupe said it’s difficult to estimate how many new students the school will see during the March enrollment period. Currently, Warren Elementary has 125 students enrolled, Jupe said.

“Last year we opened 20 seats across the district and got 16 applicants,” Jupe said. “The year before, I believe we opened 10 and I think we largely filled them.”

Jupe said the Scappoose School District Board will discuss Monday, March 10, ideas for better utilizing Warren Elementary.

A number of recent programs and initiatives, Wilebski believes, could bring more students to the school.

Wilebski said the staff and teachers at Warren Elementary have been working hard to reach out to the community and attract more students to the school. He said those interested can check out the school to see if it might be a good fit at Warren Elementary’s Math and Science Night on March 13, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., where informational booths on student projects will be displayed.

Wilebski also highlighted the school’s new focus on proficiency in reading — a program he called “Walk to Read” — as a selling point for the school. He said the program has bolstered reading levels and now some of the students in the school are reading at a sixth-grade level. Wilebski said a similar math-based program will be introduced next school year.

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