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Enrollment dips in county's school districts

Most students plan in-person classes, but some students switch to remote learning

Staff writer

With Goessel entering its second week of classes — and other districts starting today — preparations for a school year that includes COVID-19 safety measures are coming to fruition.

Many safety measures have come to pass, like Plexiglas dividers for desks and front offices. There also are cameras that Hillsboro and Peabody-Burns are using to scan temperatures of students and staff, or handheld temperature readers some other districts have.

Officials at the county’s school districts are keeping an eye on enrollment and wonder how much it will fluctuate this year.

Hillsboro has 516 students enrolled for in-person classes, with 37 remote-learners, and five in the virtual program, and a couple families are home schooling.

“By far the overwhelming number of students plan to actually be in school,” Hillsboro elementary principal Evan Yoder said.

Hillsboro middle school teacher Darlene Bartel doesn’t think there will be many issues in her classroom since she has enough space to socially distance in both her science classroom and gym class.

She is less sure, however, how it will work to have students who are following her classes remotely.

“It’s big,” she said. “I’ve never had to manage two computers, so now I have to do that. Old dogs can learn new tricks.”

Gym class is likely to have remote learners join through video chat.

“They’ll have a different assignment but related to soccer,” she said. “Videotape yourself showing three soccer drills, maybe at the beginning of the week and then at the end of the week with how you’ve improved.”

Marion Elementary has 220 students enrolled for in-person classes from preschool to fifth-grade, with 11 in remote-learning, and 20 students either home schooling or choosing virtual learning.

Marion High School’s administration could not be reached to provide enrollment numbers.

“We’ll probably jump up again next year,” principal Justin Wasmuth said. “We have a big kindergarten class this year, so it’ll all even out.”

While districts have similar rates of students opting out of in-person classes, the number of students who chose remote learning vs. virtual or home schooling swings greatly.

Centre’s online program has been a beneficiary of the increase in online schooling. The online program jumped from 105 students last year to 240 this year, with 15 students from Marion County.

Centre superintendent Susan Beeson could not be reached to provide further enrollment numbers.

Having remote learning students at home all day, every day, can be strenuous on parents, Bartel said.

“The reality is that we have parents who have to go to work,” she said. “That’s a very real thing we have to look at.”

Flexibility in the classroom will be a necessity, especially since there are so many evolving guidelines, Bartel said. She also is eager to learn something new.

“There’s a part of me that’s quite curious to see how things are going to go,” she said. “It’s going to be different. There’s a lot of me that feels like a first-year teacher again.”

Peabody-Burns’ in-person attendance has taken a noticeable hit, with 8 to 10% of students choosing remote learning, and 10% going online, virtual, or home schooling, Traxson said.

Remote learning factors into a district’s enrollment, but online, virtual, and home schooled students do not unless a district offers those services.

“It hurt our numbers this year,” Traxson said. “We are down this year more than we anticipated.”

District numbers already were expected to shrink by 10 because last year’s senior class graduated 24, while this year’s kindergarten class had 14.

Goessel is entering its second week of school, and first-year superintendent Amanda Lowrance thought the first week was very successful.

“Our students did a great job keeping masks on,” she said. “We had scheduled mask breaks that went well. It’s always an adjustment period at the beginning of the year.”

Goessel has 278 students, slightly lower than last year’s enrollment of 286 students. That includes a smaller kindergarten class. It also accounts for 18 students opting for remote learning, but Lowrance does not have numbers for how many are learning through online, virtual, or home schooling since the school doesn’t offer those services.

“Other districts may be a little lower than what they expected compared to us,” she said. “We’re still looking very good.”

Last modified Sept. 10, 2020

 

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