To try to keep the Oregon-Davis School Corporation’s finances in the black, parents are now brainstorming ways to boost enrollment. During a school board work session Wednesday, Superintendent Dr. Don Harman said the pace of the enrollment decline has exceeded the projections he made during the referendum discussions in late 2017.
He said enrollment was at 513 students during the past school year, a drop of 200 students from 10 years ago. “When I’ve talked to different companies that are consultants, two big items that come up are housing and time zone,” Harman said. “And that’s just a fact. Both individuals and companies, consultants that I talked to have addressed that. We do have families who contact us and say, ‘We want to come to Oregon-Davis, but we can’t find a home.'”
Part of the challenge is that many of the school-age children who do live in the district are attending classes elsewhere. The most recent statistics from the Indiana Department of Education show that there were 644 state-funded students in Oregon and Davis townships, but only 392 of them attended O-D. 250 of them attended a different public school system. On the other hand, Oregon-Davis only attracted 117 out-of-district students. Since each school corporation’s state funding is based on how many students it has on count day, it’s becoming a challenge to keep O-D’s budget balanced.
A few parents came to Wednesday’s work session prepared with lists of ideas for retaining and attracting students. Luke Bradley suggested focusing on some of the things that Oregon-Davis has that other local schools may not, such as free breakfast, the telehealth center, and the new girls high school soccer team.
Lee Nagai had a few ideas to encourage families to at least visit the O-D campus, such as summer sports and music camps and expanding the availability of the gym and pool facilities to the community. He also suggested having band students perform in various communities’ parades, as a way to generate interest.
School Board Member Kyle Hinds thought adding an EMT course to the high school’s offerings could be an attraction, especially for students interested in a career in firefighting. He felt that grant funding may be available to help with the cost.
Many of those in attendance spoke in favor of increasing bus transportation to out-of-district students and reducing the barriers for them to enroll. There was also discussion about having teachers with an expertise in marketing manage the corporation’s social media channels, while students could help as part of their coursework.