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Kindergartners exceed district fall projections

Student enrollment is up in most districts countywide, and school officials are attributing the increase to a higher-than-projected number of kindergartners.

In Medford, nearly 1,100 kindergartners showed up Monday for the 10th day of school — about 118 more than were planned for by the school district.

Kindergarten enrollment was similarly high in the Phoenix-Talent and Ashland school districts.

“I think all-day kindergarten has gone over better than we thought,” said Medford schools Superintendent Brian Shumate.

School districts typically project in the winter for the next fall’s enrollment. The projections are based on trends and are necessary for budget planning, Shumate explained. However, kindergartners are always a “wild card,” because they aren’t in the system yet, he added.

The Medford School District added 16 teaching positions before the school year began in an effort to reduce classroom sizes and has since had to hire six additional teachers to meet the kindergarten need and because of increased enrollment at the elementary level.

Meanwhile, as of Tuesday, the district had 1,999 middle-school students — 15 fewer than projected — and 4,095 high school students — 24 fewer than projected.

Shumate said enrollment is historically at its highest about the 10th day of school, and between Sept. 30 and the end of the school year it will drop by about 1.2 percent.

“I’m hoping that some of the programming we are offering and some of our initiatives are attracting and keeping people in the Medford School District,” he said.

The Ashland School District grew by about 120 students. Samuel Bogdanove, director of student services, attributed the increase to full-day kindergarten, the district’s open inter-district policy — 98 more students transferred to Ashland this year from neighboring districts — and the improving economy, which made it possible for more kids to live in town.

The district had to add seven teachers at the elementary level and two at the high-school level, Bogdanove said.

Although the Phoenix-Talent School District had about 15 more kindergartners than it had projected, the district’s total enrollment dropped as a result of 130 students moving outside the district, which is unheard of, said Superintendent Teresa Sayre.

It was fortunate that 120 students moved into the district to fill most of those empty seats, she said.

And there were enough kindergartners to justify adding an additional teacher at Orchard Hill Elementary.

In Central Point Tuesday, every school had exceeded its September 2014 enrollment, and districtwide enrollment was up 174 students.

Although Eagle Point's total enrollment was up 23 students, non-charter enrollment was down about 90 students, said Tiffanie Lambert, the district's director of school improvement.

"We believe it has to do with the cap for the charter school going up, and it looks like more families are choosing the charter," she said, adding that last year 134 students were enrolled in Crater Lake Charter Academy and, this year, 248 students are enrolled in the charter school.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.

Jackson County enrollment by school district by Mail Tribune