The high prices of housing may be pushing young families away from local school districts, a demographer's report says, with the four districts in the Almanac's coverage area reporting a drop in enrollment between 4 and 18 percent from recent highs.
The report, prepared by Tom Williams of Enrollment Projection Consultants, will be presented to the board of the Menlo Park City School District on Tuesday, Dec. 12. The meeting starts at 5:45 p.m. in the district's TERC room, 181 Encinal Ave. in Atherton.
It shows that contrary to earlier projections for continued growth, enrollment is expected to dip from current levels at district schools, not returning to current numbers until 2023.
The numbers are significant because the Menlo Park district, along with the Woodside, Portola Valley and Las Lomitas districts, is "community funded" (formerly called "basic aid"), meaning it receives most of its revenue from local sources. Little of the funding is tied to enrollment. The local revenue sources include property taxes, parcel taxes and donations.
In the Menlo Park district, lower enrollment could ease the district's budget woes. Consultants had previously predicted the district would have 3,151 students in 2020 and 3,280 in 2025. The new projection shows 2,939 students in 2020 and 2,979 in 2023. Enrollment in October of 2017 was 2,972.
The report also gives enrollment numbers for transitional kindergarten through fourth grades in 2010-2017 for other local school districts. It shows:
● Menlo Park City School District – currently down 4 percent from the 2013 high of 1,721 students.
● Las Lomitas Elementary School District – currently down 18 percent from the 2012 high of 838 students.
● Portola Valley School District – currently down 17 percent from 2011 high of 406 students.
● Woodside Elementary School District – currently down 9 percent from 2014 high of 265 students.
Mr. Williams said in his report that the previous projections were based on the expectation "that the improving job market would result in higher birth and kindergarten numbers" as it had in past decades.
"There instead was a decline in the latest birth and younger student totals in most districts," he wrote. "The further jump in housing costs since 2013 probably is factoring into this evident decline in the number of young families. The resultant lower than-previously-forecast kindergarten totals both last year and this year thus could continue," he wrote.
Also on the agenda:
● A discussion of Stanford University's Middle Plaza development on El Camino Real. Members of the city of Menlo Park subcommittee that has worked with the university on ways to mitigate the development's impacts on the community, including the school district, will attend. The university does not have to pay property taxes on the residential portion of the development even though it may add student to local schools.
● Approval of a report on the district's budget to date.