Officials: Hermiston School District to keep growing

<p><strong>Based on the results of a population study conducted by Portland State University, the Hermiston School District will experience significant growth in the next 10 years, just as it has in the past 10 years.</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p>

The Hermiston School District shows no signs student population growth will slow, at least according to a population study recently completed by Portland State University.

The Hermiston School District contracted with Portland State to conduct a 10-year population study this year to help officials determine future class sizes, plan for budgeting and more. Results of the study indicate that, not only is Hermiston not ready to stop growing, student numbers will steadily increase for at least the next 10 years.

According to the study, the Hermiston School District is expected to grow more than 800 students throughout the next 10 years, which is comparable to what the district experienced during the last 10 years. While additional students will bring in more money from the state, Deputy Superintendent Wade Smith told the School Board Monday night, the district has no room available for those students.

“No matter what, we are going to grow,” he said. “We are going to continue to need additional classroom space. It is how fast we need that space is what is going to be the most challenging question our Facilities Master Planning Committee is slowly starting to answer ... Remember we only have one open classroom next year.”

Citing the study’s results, Smith said the district is in a similar situation as it was in 2007 — the last time Portland State conducted a population study for the district.

“These last 10 years have been really levied by a 32-percent increase in student population,” he said. “That is not surprising to us. We have seen that population every day, every year through our doors.”

Smith said the report indicates Hermiston’s birth rate continues to exceed the state and county averages, and more people keep moving to Hermiston, as well.

“Basically, our families are younger, and they are having more kids,” he said. “Not only are more people moving into Hermiston, but the people who are in Hermiston are having more kids, based on the birth rate and fertility rates. I don’t think that has shocked any of us. Despite some hardships, we continue to see growth in those numbers.”

In recent years, Smith said the number of kindergarten students in the district has increased. Those numbers are expected to slow at the early elementary levels in the coming year, but as the wave of students advances through the grades, the district will experience problems at the middle school and high school levels.

“The wave that has come into the elementary schools, it is going to continue to grow, but not at the same rate of pace,” Smith said. “What you start seeing is that wave of growth is going to start slowly making its way through the system as we continue to increase K through 12 … We are going to start seeing a real stretch on our middle school and high school capacity challenges for the district as they move through the system.”

According to the study, Smith said, in the next 10 years, the elementary school population is expected to grow by about 9 percent, middle school numbers will increase by about 20 percent and the number of high school students will go up by about 24 percent.

District officials are most concerned about the impact at the high school, Smith said.

He said by the 2023-24 school year, the high school is predicted to have 1,841 students, which is more than 200 students over capacity. Currently, the high school sits at about 1,490 students.

“What are we going to do with those 1,841 kids?” Smith said to the board.

Smith said the district’s study will factor greatly in the decisions and plans made by the Facilities Master Planning Committee. He said, in November, he hopes to present to the board a student capacity review, which will focus on how the district will house the increase in students.

People can download the results of the survey at http://hermiston.k12.or.us/community/facilities-master-planning/committee/reports/.

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