Traditional public schools in Douglas County saw enrollment decrease by 1,050 students in the last year, which could have a multi-million dollar impact on schools.
Roseburg Public Schools saw enrollment drop by 551 students between October 2019 and October 2020, according to enrollment data from the Oregon Department of Education. Enrollment data from the school district from late January saw enrollment go from 6,077 last year to 5,598 this year — a 479 person decrease.
Enrollment numbers are tied to the funding a school district receives. In Oregon, funding is based on enrollment for the previous or current year — whichever is more favorable.
This means that if enrollment goes back to pre-pandemic numbers by October 2021 there will be no financial impact to a district. However, if enrollment is down by 500 students it could negatively impact the Roseburg school district budget by more than $4 million.
“Our main concern with a decline in enrollment is the effect it has on our ability to provide caring and effective education to our community’s students from quality local teachers,” Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cordon said. “Our district is an intrinsic part of the Roseburg community, and the partnership and teamwork that entails creates a special learning environment. Obviously, there are also budgetary implications when enrollment declines. Negative impacts on our budget can affect our robust programming options and our ability to continue to grow the supports and resources we offer to our students.”
Public school enrollment was down 3.7% throughout the state, according to enrollment data from the state.
Most schools in Douglas County saw a decrease in enrollment with the exception of Camas Valley and Days Creek schools which increased enrollment and North Douglas School District in Drain which had the exact same number of students.
Days Creek and Camas Valley schools opened their doors to in-person learning at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, while most other districts around the county waited to reopen. Roseburg Public Schools was the last district to bring students back, earlier this month.
Private schools in the Roseburg area also continued to teach on site and Umpqua Valley Christian Schools Superintendent George Graham said enrollment increased by 55 students at the school.
“We have waiting lists for most of the classes,” Graham said.
Geneva Academy also has waiting lists for multiple classes, but didn’t see a net increase.
“The families who are new, joining us from public school were offset by Geneva families who chose to homeschool this year because of uncertainty of the times and wanted consistency for their children regardless of what the state chose to do with lifting and imposing restrictions,” said Kellie Trenkle, who is on the vision and development team at Geneva Academy.
Homeschooling was a popular option among Douglas County parents.
“That choice likely made sense logistically for some families during school closures,” Cordon said. “We hope that with the reopening of our schools, we will have the opportunity to serve many of those students again.”
Last year the number of students who were homeschooled averaged around 800, as of Tuesday the Douglas Education Service District listed 1,460 homeschool students. Parents need to file an intent to homeschool with the service district.
Douglas ESD spokesperson Heather Villa pointed out that the data does not reflect students who recently re-enrolled in a district and “does not include students who are registered with online schools, charter schools or other.”
Virtual public schools such as Oregon Virtual Academy and Willamette Connections Academy saw enrollment increase drastically in the last year. With a 2,143 increase at Willamette Connections Academy and a 1,262 increase at Oregon Virtual Academy.
Roseburg Public Schools will launch its virtual school next year in the hopes of regaining and retaining students.
“Many parents have sought alternatives for this school year through online schools that were already established in this learning model, and we completely understand that motivation,” Cordon said. “That is one of the reasons we are working to create robust virtual options for our students next school year.”
Roseburg school district also saw enrollment increase as it started on site instruction at the elementary schools and hybrid learning at the middle and high schools.
“A number of families requested a transfer due to the fact that we, in following the health and safety metrics, were not immediately open to in-person instruction,” Cordon said. “Many of these families have returned to in-person and hybrid instruction.”