123-student drop not out of line with county trends

Even though the student census in Forest Grove schools has dropped significantly since September 2011, Superintendent Yvonne Curtis told the school board Monday night that contextually, the decline isn't so surprising.

Her comments came after Assistant Superintendent John O'Neill told board members that a count taken Sept. 19 put district enrollment at 5,677 students, 123 fewer than a year ago.

"We need to take a look across the region," said Curtis. "What we're experiencing in Forest Grove doesn't seem quite so drastic when you realize what's happening in other districts around the state and in Washington County."

Although a tally taken Sept. 10 showed a drop of 178 students, the latest count is more accurate, O'Neill said, adding that a third census report on Monday should help district officials to hone on actual early-autumn enrollment after students settle into classes.

Oct. 1 has "historically been our largest enrollment date," O'Neill said.

Chief of Staff Connie Potter said Monday afternoon that the district had budgeted for a loss of up to 100 students in 2012-13, partially as a buffer as Oregon's new open enrollment law went into effect. Early reports showed that Forest Grove lost 69 students to Gaston, Banks and Hillsboro as a result of House Bill 3681.

The additional 23-student drop won't pose an additional financial challenge to the district on top of several million in budget cuts made last spring. Although each pupil represents an average of $6,000 in revenue from state coffers, Business Manager Mike Schofield said the decline "does not have an impact on revenue for 2012-13 because of the 'stop loss' (provision) in the State School Fund Formula." Since enrollment is falling this year, Schofield noted, the district will be paid based on average daily attendance during 2011-12. Next year, though, all bets are off.

Curtis put the losses into perspective for board members, saying "even Sherwood, which had been growing at 4 percent per year, is now only growing at .9 percent."

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