School Enrollment Numbers See Slight Dip

ESPY WINNERS this month are Harlee Bellon, Jacey Brunson, Ava Desmond, Allison Dennull, Sadie Engelhart, Olivia Farris, Gavin Gardner, Aili Hammond, Everleigh Higholt, Marci Holifield, Kellen Landis, Hannah Norman, Wesley Raynor and Kira Wortman.

School District board members at a March 11 board meeting heard enrollment numbers are starting to drop a little which, according to Supt. Terry Martin, is a nationwide trend.

Martin reviewed current enrollment numbers, noting the district is down a little bit, “which is kind of unusual for this time of year.” It’s common to see movement around winter or spring break, though. He noted numbers are down considerably across the state as well as the nation, and that is beginning to show itself in Sweet Home as the district’s kindergarten numbers begin to dip.

A board member asked what’s causing a drop in enrollment, to which Martin said it’s for a variety of reasons. Some on the board and in the audience said it could be moves out of state, enrollment in non-public schooling systems, poor attendance and a decline in birth rates.

Discussion among the board revealed the district used to fine parents for absent kids, but now the district offers incentives for attendance instead.

Meanwhile, the school district has initiated a program to help incoming students learn English as a second language.

Jennifer Ashcraft presented to the board an update on the English Language Learners (ELL) program for students whose first language is not English. The goal of the program, she said, is to help the students become proficient in English while also maintaining their first language and culture. She is serving six schools in the district which have students who speak primarily Filipino, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Ukrainian.

The high school has two English learners (ELs) and three who are now considered proficient but are being monitored. The junior high has four ELs and two monitored; Hawthorne has one monitored EL; Oak Heights has seven ELs and one monitored; the charter school has one EL student; Foster has two ELs; and Holley has no ELs this year.

The district plans to host an EL family night for parents, students and teachers to help connect the families to important resources and provide opportunities for the families to connect.

In other business, the board:

Heard a budget update;

Approved the 2024-25 school calendar;

Approved a service plan with the Linn Benton Lincoln Education Service District, which offers specialized services to the district;

Approved the adoption of curriculum for ELL;

Approved vendors for resurfacing and filtration projects at the pool;

Addressed an issue surrounding the resignation of Robbie Ellis, who taught math at the junior high school. A board member mentioned it was concerning to her that his resignation letter indicated he was leaving due to student behavior and work overload. While Martin said he could not legally speak publicly about individuals, he did say the district is looking into the matter.