While the La Grande School District’s enrollment figure is up, it’s not quite as robust as officials expected.

Early numbers show the school district now has 2,370 students, up slightly from a year ago at this time, according to figures released at a school board meeting Wednesday.

Superintendent George Mendoza said he is pleased enrollment is up, but “the increase was not as high as I would have liked.”

The superintendent said he hoped enrollment would be around 2,400. Enrollment has a big impact on funding since the Oregon school districts receive about $7,770 per student from the state.

However, the school district’s business manager, Chris Panike, said the lower than anticipated enrollment will not have negative budget repercussions.

“I don’t see it as a threat to the existing budget,” he said.

He said the large growth the school district experienced in recent years provided a buffer.

“The growth has given us flexibility,” Panike said.

Panike added enrollment tends to be in a state of flux during September, when many students are still in the process of settling in. He believes by Oct. 1, which is when the school district’s official enrollment is recorded, enrollment will be about what it was a year ago, which was 2,373 students on Oct. 1.

Based on Oct. 1 numbers, the school district’s enrollment rose an average of 65 students each of the previous three years.

Mendoza noted 48 percent of the school district’s students come from lower-income families, allowing them to qualify for free and reduced cost lunches under the federal government’s school meal program. The superintendent said this is a
reminder that many students in the school district are from families at or near the poverty line.

“It is important that we have services for them,” he said.

Parking at La Grande High School was also discussed at Wednesday’s meeting. Mendoza said the new student parking lot on the western end of K Avenue will soon be paved. The parking lot is located where the old Central Elementary School was before it was torn down less than a year ago. The school was replaced by the new Central at Second Street and H Avenue, which is where the LHS student parking lot was.

LHS senior Tristan Weimer, the school board’s new student representative, said the new parking lot is welcomed by students. He said before it was put in, student parking was limited and a number of students parked in residential areas near the school and often received parking tickets.

Also at the meeting, in an action item, the school board addressed a complaint filed against it on Aug. 15 by two people who live in the La Grande School District. Their complaint alleges the school board violated district policies and Oregon Department of Education standards by the way it handled a complaint they submitted to the board earlier this year.

See more in Friday's edition of The Observer.