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Student count figures steady
Early school-year enrollment news is good overall in Union and Wallowa counties.
Student counts are up in the La Grande, Elgin, Enterprise, North Powder, Joseph and Wallowa school districts and down slightly in the Cove, Imbler and Union school districts.
Enrollment in the La Grande School District is up 15 from a year ago at 2,181. A big portion of the growth came at the first-grade level, which is up 26 students from 2012-13, a jump which prompted the school district to hire an additional first-grade teacher late last week.
The large number of first-graders surprised La Grande administrators who had projected 186 first-graders. First-grade class sizes ranged from 29 to 30 at the start of the school year last week but are now down to the 24- to 25-student range following the hiring of a temporary first-grade teacher. La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze decided to add the additional teacher because he believes it is vitally important that classes for first-graders be smaller.
“First grade is a critical time because children are learning to read. We want to give our students every opportunity for success,” the superintendent said.
Elementary school enrollment is down 52 overall in La Grande but is up at the middle school and high school. La Grande High School has 630 students, up 43 from a year ago, and La Grande Middle School has 530 students, up 24. The total at LMS is the highest in at least 10 years, school officials said.
North Powder School District enrollment is also the highest in at least a decade. North Powder has 297 students, up 16 from a year ago.
North Powder Principal Gerald Hopkins said his district’s enrollment is near capacity. The principal said there is a waiting list for students outside the district who want to transfer in.
“Last year, a parent called me every three weeks trying to get her daughter into middle school but we didn’t have room for her,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins attributes a portion of his district’s increase to families from outside the school district enrolling their children. Students can easily transfer into North Powder because it is a charter district. Any student can transfer into a charter district if it has space available.
Hopkins said that when parents from outside the district are asked why they are transferring their children in, they often say they heard that the district has a superior faculty.
“Many people say, ‘We heard that you have outstanding teachers,’” Hopkins said.
The Enterprise School District, like North Powder, also is taking a significant step on the enrollment front. The school district has 402 students, up 17 from a year ago. The increase is a welcome surprise for Enterprise Superintendent Brad Royse.
“In July, I told the school board that I was concerned, I was worried that our enrollment might be down,” he said.
A big portion of the increase is at the sixth-grade level. Enterprise has 37 sixth-graders, an unexpectedly high number considering it had 32 fifth-graders in 2012-13. All 37 of the sixth-graders are in one classroom and have one teacher.
Royse is concerned about the size of the class and considering hiring an additional teacher.
“We are exploring our best possible options,” he said.
Enterprise’s enrollment jump comes on the heels of two years of falling student counts. A year ago, enrollment was down 22 students.
Royse does not know how stable Enterprise’s enrollment increase is. He said that the parents of a number of students do not have jobs and he fears that some of these families may leave the area before the end of the school year.
Enrollment in Wallowa, Joseph and Elgin are on the rise, as well. Wallowa has 235 students, while Joseph is up five students from a year ago to 239 and Elgin is up 13 from the end of last year to 382.
However, not everyone has seen an increase.
Total enrollment in the Union School District is 351, down about four from a year ago.
Union Superintendent Carter Wells said that he feels good that Union’s enrollment picture appears stable.
“We are consistent, our numbers are steady,” Wells said.
He said that this will allow the school district to continue to offer the quality programs the Union community has come to expect.
Enrollment in the Imbler School District is virtually unchanged. The district has 332 students, one less than a year ago.
Imbler School District Superintendent Doug Hislop said his district’s enrollment picture was hurt by the loss of several families who moved outside the area.
The Cove School District is reporting an enrollment of 280 students, down five from a year ago.
Cove School District Superintendent Bruce Neil feels good about the school district’s enrollment picture. Except for a few elementary school classes Cove has little room for additional students.
“We are right at capacity,” Neil said.