Oregon Trail Academy sees enrollment dip due to pandemic
While the overall Oregon Trail School District's enrollment wasn't greatly impacted by the pandemic, charter school Oregon Trail Academy has a different story.
In fall of 2019, the school had a student population of about 317 students. This fall that number is at 260 students. The school is down 32 students from last year alone when all classes were virtual.
Total enrollment includes the 32 fully online students who study remotely, but have access to counseling from academy instructors.
Though Oregon Trail Academy is a charter school and can take donations, the institution also receives per-pupil state funding.
"There is still a lot of concern over COVID-19," Executive Director Rachel Weeks said, explaining that some parents moved their kids because they didn't appreciate the mask mandate and some started homeschooling or online schooling because they are concerned about safety in an in-person education scenario.
This year, the International Baccalaureate school dropped its three-year-old high school diploma program due to lack of enrollment. The program had fewer than 10 students attending.
In order to return the program, Weeks said there would need to be at least 20 students in each high school grade level; ideally there would be 28 students in each.
While enrollment is down now, Weeks is optimistic about the present and future of the school.
"We've also had several people interested and given tours recently," Weeks said. "We're hopeful things will bounce back as the pandemic slows down and people start to come back out into the world."
This year, the academy added a K-8 art program, so all students in kindergarten through fifth grade receive art instruction once a week and those in sixth through eighth grades have art classes every day.
Currently, Weeks sees the academy as having many selling points.
"Especially during the pandemic, (I think it's a plus) that we have small class sizes and a large campus for safety," she said.
Students of all ages at Oregon Trail Academy learn Mandarin, on top of art and traditional subjects, which Weeks said is "very positive for students."
"Often students going into high school are well prepared if not advanced." She said.
The kindergarten through fifth grade-level classes have spaces available for new students at the moment, with second and fourth grade classes being the fullest. Similar to other schools across the state, the charter has seen an impact to its kindergarten and first grade class sizes, with kindergarten down from 28 students to 23 students from last year.
However, Weeks maintains a positive outlook, saying "we're hopeful this next year will be better."
"We're always accepting students into our program," Weeks added. "It's a dynamic and rigorous program (that's) very student driven. We offer a lot of support to students (so) they aren't going into any situation without teacher support."
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