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Bend-La Pine Schools see 1,100 fewer students than two years ago, before COVID-19 hit

The Bend-La Pine School Board got a first look at fall enrollment figures Tuesday evening
Bend-La Pine Schools
The Bend-La Pine School Board got a first look at fall enrollment figures Tuesday evening

(Update: Adding Redmond enrollment numbers)

Projections are difficult amid COVID-19: 'It's really difficult to know where they went'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – You might call Brad Henry the chief number-cruncher for Bend-La Pine Schools. But after the upheaval that COVID-19 has brought to just about everything, including school attendance figures, he’s not about to claim he can say why this fall’s enrollment is down about 1,100 students from two years ago.

“It’s really difficult to know where they went,” Henry, the district’s chief operations and financial officer, told the school board Tuesday evening during a look at the first fall enrollment numbers, a week into the 2021-22 school year.

“We do get anecdotal information, when other districts request files,” he said. “We will look at which students who were with us pre-pandemic are not with us now, aside from graduations of course, and get an idea which students, where and in which grades. It might give us a clue as to what happened.”

The Redmond School District also has seen a less-dramatic drop, from 7,469 students in the fall of 2019 to 7,199 students this fall, which is still up a bit from the year-ago enrollment figure of 7,069, Public Information Officer Sheila Miller said.

Bend-La Pine Schools welcomed nearly 17,600 students last week, about 700 fewer than the district had projected. But as you might expect, making a good estimate amid the pandemic’s varied impacts was a tall order, too. In typical years, the birth rate five years ago is the start for such projections, but there are other forces at play these days.

“It was very difficult to make that projection,” Henry said. “We landed on one that had us not quite getting back to 2019 enrollment.” Instead, “we’re about where we were last year at this time,” though that involved all students being in distance learning.

Board member Carrie McPherson Douglass said she finds the drop in enrollment “concerning” and asked if it might reflect an overall drop in the area’s population after many years of growth.

“It seems a lot of workers have left the area,” she said.

Henry said, “The pandemic feels like forever. It’s hard to have good population numbers during a pandemic. Obviously, before we were growing. I’ve heard we’re still growing, but don’t know that for a fact.”

Board member Melissa Barnes Dholakia asked about any early signs regarding the financial impact, since pre-student enrollment is the basis for state funding directed to schools.

While there will be more discussions as the numbers firm up in coming weeks, Henry said “revenues will be down.” Last year, the state held districts “mostly harmless” in terms of revenues, he said, but “this year, we will not be.”

“We’re in tune with what’s happening across the state, at least in the large districts,” Henry said. “Most large districts are seeing the same thing – maybe not to this degree, but a number are also down from the pre-pandemic peak.”

If the figures are down statewide, the amount of state funds per pupil can increase, so there could be “some offset, but there will be an impact on revenue,” Henry said.

Bend / Central Oregon / Government-politics / Local News / News / Top Stories

Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

Comments

12 Comments

  1. This guy is not very good at projections, obviously, although most of us could see this coming. A few months ago, I said the District should seriously consider not opening Caldera HS, because enrollment numbers were too unpredictable to justify it. Now, I am proven true. I am no genius, but I do have a background in statistics and business. The District has taken on an enormous new expense running Caldera, and it appears it could have been avoided. They probably should have moth-balled it for a few years.

      1. You obviously did not read my post…months ago, I said that Caldera was probably not needed at this time…that is not 20/20 hindsight. You can check my posting history if you care to; it will verify that I predicted this some time ago.

          1. OK….I will make another prediction. As I said in another venue, the trend will probably be for Redmond to see less reduction in numbers, because Redmond is more affordable for younger, lower income families. That was borne out in the new figures. I predict the trend will continue. We will probably see more growth in Redmond and Prineville schools over the next decade, compared to Bend. btw the school Board member Douglass’ comment that the population of Bend might be going down was clueless. Just call up the Census Bureau.

  2. If the school district is really that out of touch with why enrollment is down, it sounds like they need to poll the community. Do you have school age children? If they do not attend a BLSD school, did they prior to 2020? If they did and are no longer enrolled, what was the reason for unenrolling? Where do they currently attend school; private, charter, homeschool?

  3. Our children have not gone back to in person learning since the first shut down. We will not send our children back until it becomes a healthy environment. Let’s start with them going back in masks yet again this year after a summer of socializing with friends daily without them. The masks are doing phycological damage to children, teens, and adults… we have lost more people to suicide than the virus itself. Kids need to see expression, the kindness of a smile can make a scared kid feel comfortable. Not to even go into why children with Asthma and other health problems need to breath! I honestly question if they even work, if they did we would see the results with less mandates, numbers, etc. I understand that people need to make a living and homeschooling is not a option for all families but this is one reason why we and many other families are deciding to homeschool our children. So sorry to the district your not going to make the money you intended, but maybe if you would stand up and give the children a more normal environment and not have them eating on the ground during there lunch like your training them to be future inmates… then maybe we will trust you with our children, but I will most likely be taking my children’s education in my own hand or elsewhere based on the districts poor choices.

  4. Anyone who didn’t see the writing on the wall at the last two months of school board meetings is really not overly bright. Parents told the school districts they would NOT send kids back to school with masks. They will NOT allow the schools to Indoctrinate children with CRT curriculum, which we all saw in the online classes last year, yet the school board claims they are not using it. They continue, even today, at the county commissioner’s meeting to discuss CRT and spending more funds to train teachers, yet the school didn’t see this coming?

    When the rubber meets the road, Financially, the schools will be begging for families to come back. It’s too little too late. More students will be pulled out this year as parents see and hear more CRT assignments. As masks continue to make children sick. We all have limits and we warned the school boards we were at ours. They chose not to listen and do their own thing. So they will reap the rewards.

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