A Portland State University projection of Ashland School District enrollment is not good news, and the worst part is, there is nothing the district can do about it.
The February report by PSU's Population Research Center projects an increase of 175 students between now and the 2021-22 school year if open enrollment continues, but a decrease of 226 students if it doesn't. State law currently allows the district to accept students from outside its boundaries if it elects to do so, but the law is scheduled to expire in 2019 if it is not renewed.
None of this is the fault of the Ashland School District, which is one of the best in the state. Ashland High School was listed among the top 20 high schools in Oregon by U.S. News and World Report based on test scores, graduation rates and preparation for college.
There is just one reason enrollment from within Ashland isn't increasing: Families with school-age children cannot afford to live here. The median price of an existing home in Ashland was $430,000 through April of this year, compared with $282,000 in east Medford.
The city has steadfastly resisted expanding its boundaries to allow more housing construction, and the result has been steadily higher prices.
Ashland schools can continue to accept students from other districts, but if the open enrollment law expires, declining numbers will become the new reality. Unless the community of Ashland decides it wants to embrace growth, the district will continue to shrink.