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Hermiston enrollment on the rise

Two largest districts have different challenges with growing populations
By Jayati Ramakrishnan

Staff Writer

Published on September 11, 2018 6:49PM

Teacher Brent Parks gives a walk-though of the shop to new students during the first day class at Hermiston High School.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Teacher Brent Parks gives a walk-though of the shop to new students during the first day class at Hermiston High School.

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Hermiston School District enrollment continues its steady climb for another year.

At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, the district had 5,104 students. As of this August, the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, Hermiston has 5,838 students. According to data compiled by the Hermiston School District over the past five years, enrollment usually sees a jump in the first month of the school year before trending slightly down throughout the year.

Interim Superintendent Tricia Mooney said the district contracted with Portland State University several years ago to do an enrollment study, which predicted that the district would see continued growth.

“We’re increasing at the high end of what they anticipated,” she said.

She attributed some of the growth to the influx of industry and jobs in the Hermiston area. Hermiston has seen rapid growth with the addition of new Amazon data centers, a Lamb Weston facility, and processing plants like Shearer’s Foods — as well as indirect growth, from employees who work at the Port of Morrow but live in Hermiston.

The district staff has grown as a result. Mooney said this year they added sixth grade, third grade and kindergarten positions, as well as several new positions at the high school.

“That’s where we’re really going to feel the crunch next year,” she said.

She said with state school funding based on the number of students in the district, or average daily membership, there have been some distinct benefits to the growth.

“We’ve been able to grow programs,” she said. “Obviously when we add 30 students, they’re not all in one grade. They’re spread out.”

She said they’ve seen growth in the high school’s career technical education program, as well as the ability to have music and physical education programs at every level — things schools with declining enrollment often have to cut.

But growth has also pressed the district up against facilities that are struggling to hold all its students. The addition of modulars alleviates the need for some classroom space, Mooney said, but not room for other activities.

“Adding modulars doesn’t give us extra gym space, or extra cafeteria space,” she said. “These things can be drawbacks to increasing enrollment.”

A failed bond in May 2017 was intended to addressed capacity issues, but the district will likely consider another new bond in the near future.



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