For the first time in history, Bend-La Pine Schools’ Oct. 1 enrollment exceeded 18,000 students. Bend-La Pine Schools, Oregon’s fifth largest school district, added 500 new students since this time last year.
Superintendent Shay Mikalson says the growth presents both challenges and opportunities.
“Currently half of our Bend area school are near or above capacity. We are hiring new teachers, finding creative locations for temporary instructional spaces and bringing in temporary, modular classrooms to accommodate the surging student population,” said Mikalson. “Years of continued enrollment growth creates opportunity for additional, innovative course offerings … including new pre-engineering, culinary and arts programs at the middle school level and new language and career technical classes at the high school level.”
Enrollment has increased dramatically in the past five years — up more than 1,700 students since 2011. The student population had increased nearly 3,000 students in the past decade.
“We are excited to welcome new families to our schools and believe our school system, and its reputation for excellence, is one factor that leads families to settle in Central Oregon,” said Mikalson. “Our students are outscoring peers on statewide benchmarks and our schools are preparing students for success after graduation.”
The district keeps a close eye on enrollment projections through its Sites and Facilities volunteer committee and through work with Portland State University’s (PSU) Center for Population Research. PSU estimates Bend-La Pine Schools’ student population will continue to grow during the next decade and is expected to reach 19,600 students by 2021. The Sites and Facilities committee estimates the district will need to build seven new schools in the next 20 years to accommodate student enrollment growth.