For the first time since 2003, Eugene School District 4J has increased its year-to-year enrollment, according to school officials. With an additional 217 students this year over last year, it’s the largest increase since 1996, says Kerry Delf, 4J associate director for communications.
4J Superintendent Gustavo Balderas says the increase is partly due to the onset of full-day kindergarten, which started districtwide for the first time this year. Some new students are also transfers, he says.
“District enrollment has been trending generally downward, with some ups and downs, since it peaked at nearly 22,000 in 1969,” Delf tells EW via email. She says that most of the increase this year happened at the elementary school level.
Enrollment was at 16,006 students last year, Delf says, and this year, it’s jumped to 16,223 students.
Non-resident transfer students make up about half the growth, or 99 students, while around a third of the growth comes from an expanding number of kindergarteners. Delf says it’s important to point out that the figure counts actual kids, not simply the increase from half-time kindergartners to full-time kindergarteners.
“High-quality, full-day kindergarten is more attractive to many families than half-day kindergarten, so the change to full-day kindergarten may have attracted more families to enroll,” she explains.
In response to the larger-than-anticipated enrollment numbers, the district is switching up some staffing assignments and has hired additional teachers to avoid ballooning class sizes.
“The district also has needed to provide some extra curriculum materials to some schools to meet the needs of the actual student enrollment at those schools,” Delf adds.