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District finally sees rise enrollment

New high school may attract residents to Oregon Trail schools


by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - The Oregon Trail School District is experiencing a rise in enrollment after several years of decline.

The Oregon Trail School District has experienced a slight but steady decline in enrollment since the 2005-06 school year, but with the help of a strategic marketing effort, an increase in home sales and a new state-of-the-art high school, student numbers have started to rise this year.

As of Sept. 28, 4,187 students were enrolled in the district, which is a 2.8 percent increase from the end of the 2011-12 school year.

“What we know to be true is we’ve had a decent influx of people moving into town, moving into our district,” says Aaron Bayer, Oregon Trail School District superintendent. “For me, that’s the thing that’s most attributable to it.”

For several years the district engaged in discussions with city of Sandy officials, real estate agents and the Chamber of Commerce to determine the best ways to promote its schools to prospective residents. One idea that materialized was a video, which marketed the district as well as Sandy’s unique qualities and location.

“What we do here in Oregon Trail is we move to ensure that every child that comes through our schoolhouse doors is going to thrive,” Bayer says in the video.

The video continues to talk about the district’s strong construction management, drafting and manufacturing programs, as well as the improving automotive program.

From the collaborations also came ways to showcase Sandy’s $114 million high school, which opened in September and has likely been a significant reason for the recent influx of families.

“We knew the high school would draw a great deal of interest and could help with the long-term economic success of the community,” district spokeswoman Julia Monteith says.

The school was built for 1,600 students but could accommodate up to 1,800. Currently, though, there are numerous classrooms not being used as the school prepares for growth.

The high school’s student body dropped 108 students during a five-year period ending with last year.

As of Sept. 28, though, 1,391 students were enrolled in Sandy High School, 101 more students than were enrolled on Dec. 30, 2011.

And according to a study conducted by the Portland State University Population Research Center, the high school is projected to add 95 students over the next 10 years, a 7 percent increase. The study also projects a 2 percent to 15 percent student body increase throughout the district over the next 10 years.

It’s a trend reversal after the district experienced small declines in enrollment each of the five school years between 2004-05 and 2009-10.

The study attributed the decline to three major factors:

n Adults ages 45 to 64 outnumbered young adults who are more likely to have young children;

n Younger adults, on average, have fewer children than the previous generation. While the population within the district has increased over the last 20 years, the number of births to district residents has changed little during that time; and,

n Job losses during the recession have slowed economic growth within the district, which had experienced growth because of new housing development.

And even though growth has slowly returned, the district isn’t ready to say this is a sign of things to come.

“We’ll take a conservative approach to the enrollment numbers,” Bayer says. “If this is just a passing trend, we need to know that before we make any concrete decision about our district and how we move forward based on it from an enrollment perspective.”

The district, which receives funding from the state based on enrollment, has not yet benefitted financially from the student body increase because funding is based on the better of the last two years. So it could see financial gains next year.