Editorial: Enrollment crunch at local schoolsThe two school districts serving most of Menlo Park and Atherton are bursting at the seams, which is causing a ripple effect as the enrollment bubble works its way through the schools.
And nowhere is that trend more pronounced than in the Menlo Park City district, which includes Hillview Middle School and the Oak Knoll, Encinal and Laurel elementary schools. The Menlo Park City district enrollment of 2,791 students significantly exceeds projections used a number of years ago when the district planned its facilities into the future.
The situation is dire enough to generate a notice from school officials to the German American International School, which leases the district's former O'Connor School site off Willow Road, warning that the district may have to take back the property before the lease expires. The notice was described as a "preliminary step" by school officials. The lease is set to expire in 2016, but can be broken if the district determines it needs the space.
And the Las Lomitas Elementary School District, which leases out campuses in Ladera (Woodland School) and Menlo Park (Phillips Brooks), has sent out a notice to the community asking for help to draft a new facilities master plan in the face of ever-growing enrollment that has seen more students materialize than planned for in recent years. Total enrollment for K-3 Las Lomitas and 4-8 La Entrada schools is expected to peak at just under 1,400 in 2016, but already some students are housed in portable classrooms.
The situation is likely more of a shock in the Menlo Park City district, which is just winding up a massive $91 million rebuilding and remodeling project on all of its campuses. With the possibility that O'Connor might be in play, the district may have to adjust attendance boundaries. There are only 10 classrooms at O'Connor, but the campus could be enlarged by bringing in more portables.
Right now the district lacks the flexibility to move its middle (4-8) school students away from Hillview School in central Menlo Park. And although Encinal is a K-5 campus in Atherton, all students from the district's eastern edge must cross El Camino Real to attend Hillview for grades 6-8. With O'Connor, the district could take some pressure off Laurel and Encinal but eventually, it may run out of space at Hillview, which has just over 800 students now but a capacity of up to 1,000.
For Las Lomitas, which earlier this year signed a new lease for the Woodland School campus in Ladera, the unexpected enrollment bulge could mean that the district would have to take back what is now the Phillips Brooks campus, which is conveniently located adjacent to La Entrada.
But any plans to take back back leased-out campuses will be studied very carefully by both districts, as the loss of rental revenue could severely impact their bottom line.
With both districts rated among the best in the state, the schools are a magnet for the Valley's high-tech parents, who want their children to attend top schools and are willing to pay the price to live in Menlo Park and Atherton to make sure they get it. But now the very popularity of Menlo Park's two prestigious districts could cause overcrowding and create the need for even more expansion at their campuses.