Class began at Alsea School on Monday, and the rural K-12 school has more students than expected.
And those students will have a big impact on the budget of the small school.
Marc Thielman, Alsea’s superintendent and principal, said the school has about 150 students this year — about 20 more than forecast — thanks to converting to a charter school earlier this year. That change allows the school more freedom to advertise with public funds and run buses into neighboring districts to pick up out-of-district transfer students. And those new students bring with them money from the state school fund.
“It changes everything,” Thielman said of the influx of transfer students. “We’re talking about a big change in revenue. We went from potentially laying people off to hiring one new teacher.”
Thielman added that between the increased enrollment and the Legislature putting more money than expected into the state school fund, the district is on solid ground financially.
Thielman said the increase in enrollment will allow the school to offer more electives and, with some new equipment purchased with Measure 98 funds, offer an enhanced metal shop curriculum. (Measure 98 required the Legislature to fund dropout-prevention and career and college readiness programs in Oregon high schools.)
Thielman said Alsea’s enrollment of 138 last year was expected to dip because its class of 2016-17 was unusually large and the classes entering at the elementary level were so small they didn’t make up for the difference. Without transfer students, the district would be struggling, he said, as it only has about 100 students living in the district.
“Our in-district population of students is at an all-time low,” he said.
He said the district had been getting calls daily from parents interested in the school, which caps the number of students in each grade at about 15 (at the elementary level, the school has classrooms where two grades are combined, with a cap of about 22 students per classroom).
“We’re pretty full,” Thielman said. “We’re turning people away.”
Thielman said the school does have some space in grades seven and eight, but much of the rest of the school is at capacity.
“We’d have to put in modulars to add more (students),” Thielman said.