Enrollment at Owens Valley High School is at its minimum and the district will be holding a special meeting tonight to discuss the implications of such low student numbers.
Principal and Superintendent Joel Hampton said Monday the district has been notified that its high school enrollment will not meet education codes and the district may face lapsation, or closure.
He said the high school enrollment is down farther than had been anticipated.
The district board and school will hold a meeting from 6-7 p.m. tonight to let the public know what is happening now and what plans are being made for the future.
Hampton added that he wants the public to know that neither he, the faculty, staff nor the Board of Trustees wants to see the school close.
California education codes state that a high school must have at least 11 average daily attendance, or ADA students, or the school will lapse. Hampton said the school currently has 13 students, but all 13 will have to have perfect attendance in order for the district to be within code. He said that with family emergencies and illnesses, that will never happen.
But Hampton said there is no need to panic, as the district has many options to try and get around the possible lapsation.
The first option will be to turn Owens Valley schools into academies that focus on academics, with little extracurricular activities. Currently the school can only field a girls basketball or volleyball teams with not enough boys to field any team.
Hampton said he hopes the academy-style school will raise enrollment as parents in Southern Inyo will now have another option of where to send their students.
Hampton said he hopes to be academy-ready before Christmas. He said this may be difficult to pull off mid-school year, but time is a major factor in the lapse process. Hampton said on April 15, a day called P2 in the education system, is when the state tallies official enrollment numbers and makes lapse decisions based on those P2 numbers.
Hampton said if the academy idea is not taking off by March, the idea of district merging with Lone Pine and Big Pine will be seriously considered. He said the idea, which will be discussed at tonight’s meeting, is favored by the other two districts.
Currently, the County Superintendent of Schools Office is paying for a study to see what the district’s best option is.
Another way to buy time, Hampton said, is to have the County Superintendent of Schools Office issue continuations – up to three – despite a code lapse, so the school would have an additional three years to try and beef up enrollment.
Hampton stressed that tonight’s meeting is meant to start conversations about what is best for the students, the district and the community, not a discussion of closing the school.
The meeting regarding lapsation will be held from 6-7 p.m. tonight in the school’s multipurpose room.