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Kindergarten enrollment hits record high

Schools expect those numbers to drop by 2016.


by: JAIME VALDEZ - Metzger kindergartened Yonis Imam doesnt know it, but hes part of the largest kindergarten class in Tigard-Tualatin history. But kindergarten enrollment is expected to drop in coming years, according to a recent report.Tigard-Tualatin schools have seen more kindergartners this year than ever before.

At Metzger Elementary School, kindergarten classes are the largest in the school’s history, thanks in large part to its new “dual language” kindergarten classes, which began last fall.

While many classes across the district are filled to capacity with rambunctious 5-year-olds, the trend is expected to change during the next four years.

According to enrollment forecasts released last month by Portland State University’s Population Research Center, the district can expect to see smaller and smaller kindergarten classes through 2016.

That’s big news for the school district, which receives its funding based on student enrollment. A low kindergarten class could mean less state funding for years as those students age through elementary school, middle school and into high school.

Today, a record 939 kindergarten students are enrolled across the district. That number is expected to drop by 5 percent by 2016.

The decline in students is due to several factors, demographers said. Fewer homes were built in Tigard and Tualatin over the last few years, which means fewer new families are moving into the district, and the students currently enrolled are aging in place, with parents not moving out of the district after their children graduate.

But the real reason fewer students will be enrolled from 2013 through 2016 is because of the 2008 financial crisis.

Statistically, fewer babies are born during economic downturns, said demographer Charles Rynerson in his report to the district.

Births peaked in the district in 2006 and 2007. Those babies are currently enrolled as kindergartners in the 2012-13 school year. As the recession dragged on, birth rates declined.

“Kindergarten growth is not likely to be sustained,” Rynerson wrote.

However, the district can look to new families moving into the area to boost enrollment numbers, he added.

Despite the expected kindergarten numbers, enrollment is expected to rise across the district over the next several years, growing from 12,341 students in 2012 to an expected 12,579 in 2016 and more than 13,000 by the year 2022.

The news for kindergarten classes also picks up after 2016, when several housing projects across the district are completed.

New housing planned west of Bull Mountain along Southwest Roy Rogers Road and other areas across the district, such as housing projects near Bridgeport Village, Metzger and in the Tigard Triangle north of Highway 217, are expected to bring new residents — and their children — to the district after 2016.

Over the 10-year forecast period, K-12 enrollment is forecast to increase by 921 students, a rise of 7 percent, according to the report.

The future development west of Bull Mountain along Roy Rogers Road, collectively known as the River Terrace area, is the largest area of potential growth.

In 2010, the district said it would need to build a new school on Bull Mountain to accommodate the number of children expected in the area.

County officials expect between 2,300 and 3,200 new homes in the area over the next several years, the demographer’s report said. That could mean between 700 and 1,000 new K-12 students in Tigard-Tualatin.

That school, which has yet to be built, will be named for former principal and school board member, Art Rutkin.




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