Like many school districts throughout Oregon and country, Centennial School District saw another year of declining enrollment coming into the 2021-22 school year.
"We were optimistic to see more students entering this school year, but, unfortunately, the kids didn't return," said Centennial's director of business and operations department, Paul Southerton. "It was somewhat unexpected, but we managed to take care of what that means financially."
Centennial's saw a 190-student drop in enrollment coming into the 2021-22 school year. Despite loss, this year's decline is significantly better than then the previous year's enrollment drops during the heart of the pandemic.
The district also is estimated to see enrollment stay relatively flat for next year. "Next we are expecting to see flat enrollment, which is great because we have been declining for four years," Southerton said. "We are hoping it will stabilize even more moving forward."
Southerton said that state allocated funding for schools is where the real financial challenge comes from this year.
"The biggest challenge is that state funding doesn't match the increase of our expenses," Southerton said. "We are expecting a 1% school increase, but we are expecting our costs to increase to 5-6%. Those costs will mostly come from an increase in the cost-of-living for students and staff."
To address the gap the district will be assessing its assets with using a zero-based budgeting approach.
"It is a very robust process that looks at everything," Southerton said. "It is a more in-depth process that allows us to make more accurate budgeting plans."
With many improvements happening throughout the district, Southerton said that he is optimistic that those cosmetic and structural additions and improvements will help encourage families to stay within the district.
"Just anecdotally, I have heard a lot of positivity things from our families about the work being done and have seen a lot of interest," Southerton said.
Although positive in the district's outlook, Southerton does acknowledge some of its shortcomings and places for improvement. Like many school districts, elementary enrollment was the hardest hit when it came to decline. Centennial elementary schools had the most dramatic drops in enrollment within the district. Oliver Elementary School lost 67 students, while Patrick Lynch Elementary had a drop of 70 students.
"There are many reasons that have kept younger students out of school," said Southerton. "For many families it is fear of safety and health. With our emergency funds, we have been enhancing health resources including improvements to ventilation."
Southerton also said that resources and funding will go into more co-curricular activities for students to stay engaged with their schools. Some of those co-curricular activities include bringing back middle school sports and middle school student government.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.