The La Grande School District’s enrollment picture appears stable seven weeks into the 2017-18 school year.

The district now has about 2,350 students, the same number it had at the end of the 2017-18 school year in June, said Business Manager Chris Panike.

Enrollment is strongest in the elementary grades, Panike told the La Grande School Board Wednesday. The largest is its first-grade class of more than 200 students, followed by a fifth-grade class of 201, a fourth-grade class of 197, second- and third-classes of 179 each, and a kindergarten class of 173. The elementary school with the most students is Central with almost 500 students, followed by Greenwood with 321 and Island City with 310.

La Grande Middle School has 545 students: 199 in sixth grade, 159 in seventh grade and 187 in eighth grade.

At La Grande High School, there are 644 students. There are 185 students in its junior class but only 158 in 10th grade, 154 in ninth grade and less than 150 in 12th grade.

The school district’s online school, the La Grande Learning Academy, now in its second year, has 27 students.

Panike said the larger classes in most of the elementary grades is encouraging, noting they will give the school district a better chance of having stable or increasing enrollment in the future.

The school district’s enrollment growth appears to have momentarily stopped after several years of noteworthy growth. The previous three years, the school district had grown by an average of 65 students every year. This bolstered the school district’s budget, since it receives about $7,700 per student from the state.

The additional money the school district received from enrollment growth helped pay for the installation of a new high school track and the construction of new high school tennis courts on K Avenue, which are almost complete.

“The additional funding was used to improve the district,” Panike said.

Although the district’s enrollment has not jumped this school year, Panike said its budget is solid because enrollment is stable.

The number of students in the school district from lower-income families appears to be declining, Panike told the board Wednesday. He explained the number of families applying for free and reduced cost school lunches for their children has decreased, and when he calls families to find out why they have not applied, they often say their financial status has improved.

See more in Friday's edition of The Observer.

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