District enrollment totals on the rise

By Dick Mason, The Observer August 28, 2013 09:59 am

Middle school students crowd the halls during school Tuesday at La Grande Middle School. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Middle school students crowd the halls during school Tuesday at La Grande Middle School. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)

The start of classes this week in the La Grande School District is giving Superintendent Larry Glaze reason to smile. It is also giving him reason to consider hiring another first-grade teacher.

Preliminary enrollment figures in the La Grande School District show an enrollment of 2,184, up 18 students from a year ago. This is good news financially since school districts receive about $6,000 from the state per student. The enrollment jump comes on the heels of a drop of 54 students a year ago.

The school district’s biggest grade school class is its group of 198 first-graders. The size of the class has Glaze concerned because the district now has an average of more than 28 students per first-grade class, slightly more than three students above the average the superintendent would like to see for first-grade classes. Glaze wants to address this issue soon. 

“We will meet tomorrow morning to decide what to do,” the superintendent said Tuesday afternoon.

Options to be considered include hiring an additional first-grade teacher or a teaching assistant. If an additional first-grade teacher is hired, it would boost the number of new teachers in the school district to 14.

Central Elementary has the most first-graders with 85, with many coming from Willow Elementary, where all kindergartners in the district attend school. Central Principal Reta Doland said the large number of first-graders had her concerned when classes started this week. She said the school would have a higher number of children new to Central than normal. Doland said safety concerns during the first day always linger with young children new to a school.

“It was hard to sleep worrying about all the what ifs,” Doland said.

Central has 363 students, down 41 from a year ago but still tops among the district’s grade schools. Island City Elementary has the second largest grade school total with 265, up five, and Greenwood Elementary has 248 students, which is up 13. Willow Elementary, a kindergarten-only school, has 147 students, down 29 from a year ago.

Central is among the schools which benefited from an influx of new students from outside the school district. Central Secretary Connie Ingerson said her school has 30 new students from outside the district. She said this was the most new students from outside the district she’s registered in the 20 years she has been with the district. 

Enrollment at La Grande High School is 630, up 43 from a year ago, and enrollment at La Grande Middle School is 533, up 27. LMS Principal Kyle McKinney said his school’s total is its highest in more than 10 years. 

Students excited to be at LMS include sixth-grader Hunter Williams, who came from Greenwood Elementary.

“It is awesome,” Williams said, adding he likes being at a new school and having a different schedule.