PEDEE -- Because of declining student enrollment at the Pedee campus of Luckiamute Valley Charter Schools, officials closed the Pedee school effective Friday, Jan. 16.
The school's remaining fifth- through eighth-graders are now being taught in a modular building on the Bridgeport campus. Their first day there was Tuesday, Jan. 20.
Luckiamute Valley Charter Schools Director Dan Austin said the two schools began the year with 104 students and now have 82. He said there is a large number of students in the third and fourth grades, but it has been harder to attract older students because of the lack of music and sports programs available at the school.
Austin said the drop in enrollment is mostly because of parents who have been laid off and have left the area to find new jobs. The schools lost 11 students in December alone.
"It's an immediate impact on our budget," Austin said. "But we don't want (the community) to think we're closing down and going away."
It was sunny in the afternoon on Jan. 16 as students and staff shared their last meal together in the Pedee basement lunchroom. They all then pitched in to load books and desks into a rental truck. After everything was packed up, the students spent the end of the school day becoming acclimated to their new classroom on the Bridgeport campus with the other grades -- pre-kindergarten through fourth.
Eleven-year-old Mark Sanchez was busy squeezing saffron-colored mustard into a mountain from plastic packets onto the lunchroom table and weighing the pros and cons of attending the new campus.
"In some cases I like it because of the shorter bus ride," Sanchez said. "And we'll have a new room with a heater."
But Sanchez said he was sad to leave the large field where he played football with his friends and the swings where he soared high into the sky.
"I will miss the school and I hope we get to come back," Sanchez said.
Although class will not regularly be held at Pedee, Austin said the school may still use the building to teach science lessons.
In addition to the move to Bridgeport, the schools had to let go of one part-time third-grade teacher and adjust staff hours. Austin said these measures made the school's budget functional for the next two years.
Cali Beasley, Parent Teacher Club secretary and a parent, said some parents were concerned about the amount of contact between the older and younger students. But the two groups will have different lunch and break periods to avoid potential conflicts.
The school is once again trying to get the word out to boost its enrollment. Austin said the school is running ads at the Independence movie theater, will have weekend information booths at Roth's Fresh Market and Safeway, and is using word of mouth.
The only other charter school in the region, Kings Valley Charter School in northern Benton County, has a current enrollment of 138, noted Mark Hazelton, the school's director. The school, which serves students in preschool through ninth grade and has a number of Polk County residents enrolled, is at capacity and has a waiting list, Hazelton added.
Despite enrollment being the lowest in the past three years, Austin said there are still many students at the Bridgeport campus and closing the school entirely is not being considered.
"We're not even close to having that happen," Austin said. "We're packed at Bridgeport."
For more information on Luckiamute Valley Charter Schools, contact the Bridgeport campus at 503-623-4837.