School enrollment in Clatsop County has grown nearly twice as fast as the state over the past five years, driven mainly by increases in Warrenton and Seaside, while Astoria slowly shrinks.
Enrollment, reported at 5,226 students in the fall, has increased by 5 percent over the past five years. The state has expanded from 567,100 students five years ago to 581,700 this fall, a 2.6 percent growth rate.
After surpassing 1,900 students for the first time since 2013, Astoria shrank by nearly 2 percent to 1,881 students this fall. The school district’s enrollment has fallen nearly 3 percent since its last high point of 1,937 in 2010.
Craig Hoppes, the school superintendent in Astoria, sees the lack of housing and living-wage jobs as some of the biggest factors in enrollment, along with yearly influx and departure of Coast Guard families.
“I can tell you from a staff standpoint, based on now versus how it was 15 years ago, we have more staff that live outside Astoria than in Astoria,” he said.
The school district’s 10-year projections call for fairly steady enrollment, Hoppes said, although educators are seeing a sustained increase in at-risk students based on the number of free and reduced-price lunches .
“I would assume that it’s the nature of the type of jobs that are available right now,” he said of the growth in lower-paying service sector positions. “I don’t think Walmart’s paying $35 an hour.”
Warrenton was at 1,041 students this fall, up slightly from the previous year. The school district has grown by more than 22 percent since 2011, when it reported 849 students after several years of shrinking enrollment. Enrollment has stayed above 1,000 since 2015, but has plateaued. The district estimates enrollment will eventually peak at 1,159 students in the 2024-25 school year.
Close on the heels of Warrenton has been Seaside. At 1,650 students this fall, Seaside has grown by 4 percent from last year, nearly 7.8 percent over the past five years and more than 12 percent since 2011.
Knappa reported 499 students this fall, almost unchanged from five years ago. Jewell School, a small, rural, K-12 campus that averages around 150 students, reported 155 students.
Growth in student enrollment has slowed down statewide. After growing by more than 2.2 percent between 2012 and 2015, enrollment has grown by less than 1 percent over the past three years.