The La Grande School District, buoyed by a strong budget, may soon expand its teaching and education staff.

The La Grande School District’s proposed 2018-19 budget calls for it to add a total of about eight positions, including 3.5 teaching positions.

These positions would be added as part of a proposed $23.6 million general fund budget the school district’s budget committee was presented with by the school district Wednesday. The school district’s financial situation is strong in large part because of an increase in enrollment each of the past five years. The school district now has 2,726 students, 405 more than at the end of the 2012-13 school year and 62 more than at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

Enrollment plays a major role because the funding Oregon school districts receive from the state is based upon their enrollment. The La Grande School District presently receives $7,850 per student.

“We are ratcheting up (in enrollment) every year, and that has helped significantly from a budget perspective,” said Chris Panike, the La Grande School District’s business manager.

The staff additions the proposed budget calls for:

• a half-time administration support position at Central Elementary School

• a full-time sixth-grade teacher and a half-time electives teacher at
La Grande Middle School

• a half-time science, technology, electronics and math/tech instructional coach

• a full-time Central Elementary School attendance/guidance secretary

• a full-time counselor/success coordinator position at La Grande High School

• a half-time technology teacher for the school district

• a full-time English Language Learner paraprofessional

• a full-time La Grande High School teacher who will teach Spanish and core content classes

Also in the budget is funding for an additional eight hours a week of school resource officer services from the Union County Sheriff’s Office. The school district currently has one full-time school resource officer.

A portion of the staff increases would be funded by money from Measure 98, which voters approved in 2016. Measure 98 calls for the state to provide funding to school districts for career technical education programs and those that boost graduation rates. The La Grande School District is set to receive $315,000 in Measure 98 funding in 2018-19.

The district’s proposed budget allots additional money to La Grande High School’s Career Technical Education program, including $80,000 for the expansion of its culinary arts program.

See complete story in Friday's Observer