3:24 p.m. PST November 8, 2015
The student population at Salem-Keizer School District is back in growth mode after a recession-related decline.
Officials recently released the district’s annual statistics, which give a snapshot of the district including demographics and budget information.
Salem-Keizer, the second largest school district in the state, has approximately 41,464 students for the 2015-2016 school year, up from last year’s 41,099 students and the 40,897 students in 2013.
While 365 new students isn’t a large increase, it does hold a certain level of significance historically and for the future.
Salem-Keizer was once anticipated to pass Portland’s school district as the largest in the state. This was particularly true between 1998 and 2008 when student enrollment increased on average each year by 713 students.
However, due to the economic downturn, that never happened.
The Salem-Keizer School District Population and Enrollment Forecasts study stated that 61 percent of residents work within the district itself, therefore “population growth in the area depends to a large degree on the strength of the economy.”
The Salem metropolitan area “lost 10,900 jobs between 2008 and 2011 during the recession and slow recovery,” the report said. Additionally, the average annual unemployment rate peaked at 10.9 in 2010.
However, as the economy recovers, more students are able to enroll again.
David Fridenmaker, manager of the district’s planning and property services, said enrollment is growing again.
“After two years of small losses in 2010-11 and 2011-12, K-5 enrollment has surged in the last three years adding 759 students to reach a new high of 19,520 in 2014-15,” Fridenmaker quoted the study. “The growth was propelled by incoming kindergarten classes that set new records each of three consecutive years, peaking at 3,267 in 2013-14.”
With a steady increase again in the district, Salem-Keizer administrators are forced to think about the long-term effects of such increases.
If the district continues to grow as it is now, it is predicted to have 42,309 students by the 2024-2025 school year. However, it is not projected to pass Portland, which already has 78 schools and more than 48,500 students.
Jay Remy, a spokesman for the district, said the district is researching the impacts of such an increase and hope to have a report completed in mid-December.
“The range of possible impacts is dependent on where the growth occurs, which grades it is in, and remaining capacity in the school and other schools,” he said. “It also depends on class size. When you lower class size, you need more teachers and more classrooms.”
Remy added that when the state budget has grown, the district has been able to reduce class sizes. However, when the state budget shrinks, they sometimes have to increase class size.
“There are a lot of variables,” he said. “These issues will also be addressed in February when we complete the Master Facilities Plan and share it with the school board.”
There are some response tactics that may be considered, but none are confirmed.
For instance, the district has used portable trailers to address overcrowding in the past, but Remy said he think it is too soon to say whether portables would be a significant part of a strategy to deal with enrollment growth in the future.
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By the Numbers
The Salem-Keizer School district has 65 schools:
- 42 elementary schools
- 11 middle schools
- 8 high schools
- 4 charter schools
Salem-Keizer is the second largest school district in Oregon
- 49 percent white
- 40 percent Hispanic
- 6 percent are Asian, Pacific Islander, African American, or American Indian.
- 5 percent are multi-ethnic
- 19 percent are English language learners
- 58 percent are considered living poverty
- 16 percent receive special education services
For more facts and figures, go to http://www.salkeiz.k12.or.us/about/statistics.