After a near-capacity 2008-09 school year, the Hermiston School District could be looking at an even more crowded 2009-10 based on early registration numbers.

That's largely thanks to a bigger-than-usual kindergarten class coming in next year, said Assistant Superintendent Wade Smith.

The district already has more than 300 kindergarten students pre-registered for next year - well above the 200-250 that's normal for this time of year, he said. As of last month, the district enrolled 387 kindergartners across its five elementary schools.

The jump follows a recent trend for Hermiston, which continues to be Eastern Oregon's largest school district, and growing.

"This could be the year we surpass 5,000 students," Smith said at Tuesday's school board meeting.

The increase looms as the district prepares to enter next fall with 51 fewer staff than this year. But more students isn't entirely a bad thing - that also translates to more state funding for Hermiston if it comes to fruition.

Hermiston's largest kindergarten class currently belongs to West Park Elementary School, which finished this year with 86 students. Desert View Elementary finished close behind at 80. And that could very well grow next year, said Desert View Principal Mike Scott. The school already has pre-registered about 56 new students for next year, he said, and the first day typically adds somewhere between 20-25 on top of whatever total it reaches by then.

"We are really watching it," Scott said.

Even if Desert View ends up with more kindergartners next year, staff reductions won't effect those classes, Scott said. The school still will have two teachers to lead four kindergarten groups, just like this year, he said.

One of the biggest jumps could happen at Highland Hills Elementary, which Scott said has pre-registered 77 kindergartners - already more than its current total of 76.

Faced with the same issue last year, the district was forced to bus some elementary students to the only building that wasn't filled to capacity last fall - Rocky Heights Elementary School.

That could happen again next year, depending on which grade levels or schools are most full, Scott said.

"We are growing to the point of capacity in all of our buildings," he said.

The district will find relief in 2011-12, however, when three replacement buildings open for Armand Larive Middle School, Sunset Elementary School and West Park Elementary School as part of a $69.9 million bond package passed last November.

The new schools will mean room for about 550 more students.

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