Enrollment continues to dip in area schools | News | Almanac Online |


Enrollment continues to dip in area schools

Some districts down by 5 percent, while others remain stable

By Angela Swartz

Special to The Almanac

Enrollment slightly declined this school year for local elementary school districts, continuing a recent area trend. The drop, local experts say, is due to the migration of young families from the area to find more affordable housing.

Las Lomitas Elementary School District, which serves portions of Menlo Park and Atherton, is one of the area districts with the most significant enrollment dip. Its enrollment dropped 5.4 percent from last school year, according to Sept. 12 enrollment numbers.

"The drop in enrollment was something that the district had expected and we have planned for it in terms of staffing and facilities," district Superintendent Lisa Cesario wrote in an email. There are 1,259 students enrolled this year compared with 1,331 at the end of the 2017-18 school year.

The enrollment numbers are "not going to go back up to where they were in their height," Cesario predicted, adding that the kindergarten classes are coming in with fewer students.

"There are not as many people with kids moving into the area," Cesario said. She noted that there's not as much new housing in the district as there is in nearby areas like Redwood City. "The cost of living in the area is pretty high and there's only so many places to live."

The Almanac gathered enrollment numbers for the 2018-19 school year that show:

● Menlo Park City School District (Menlo Park and Atherton): down 2.2 percent from the 2016 high of 2,999 students. There are 2,932 students currently enrolled in the district. That's a 1.4 percent drop from last school year. This nearly lines up with a demographer's prediction that the district would be at 2,936 students this fall.

● Portola Valley School District: down nearly 5 percent from last school year. There are 574 students enrolled in the district (as of Sept. 6); there were 604 students during the 2017 school year.

● Woodside Elementary School District: down less than 1 percent from the 2012 high of 453 students. Enrollment is stable this year. There are 410 students enrolled (as of Sept. 12) — the same number as in 2017.

Previously, the booming regional economy meant more families moved into the area, increasing births and enrollment in local schools, according to a December 2017 report from Enrollment Projection Consultants, a San Mateo-based demographer.

Now, people are moving away once they have children because they can't afford housing prices, report author Tom Williams wrote.

The median home value in Menlo Park is $2.4 million, according to online real estate platform Zillow. Menlo Park home values have gone up 19.4 percent over the past year, the group says. Zillow predicts values will rise 7.2 percent within the next year.

Between July 2015 and July 2017, Silicon Valley gained 44,732 newcomers, but also lost 44,102 residents, according to a February 2018 survey by Joint Venture Silicon Valley.

"Without question, Silicon Valley is still a hotbed," said Joint Venture CEO Russell Hancock, in a press release. "But our spectacular success has created a harsh environment for families. Housing is out of reach for all but a very few. Those who can't afford it are living challenging lives, or commuting from far-flung places, spending ghastly amounts of time in traffic."

The four school districts cited above are "community funded" (formerly called "basic aid"). This means they receive most of their revenue from local sources, including property taxes, parcel taxes and donations. Little of their funding depends on enrollment, so dropping enrollment actually means there are more funds available per student.

"We do have to cut programs when we're absorbing growth," said Parke Treadway, public information officer for the Menlo Park City School District. "We can reimplement them when we have less kids."

There isn't a huge downside to the dip for the district, she said. If it were more significant, it would make it harder for the district to scale and offer more classes such as world languages.

"It's something we're paying really close attention to," said Terry Thygesen, Menlo Park City School District board president. There is obviously "some financial relief if enrollment does decline to some extent," she added.

It's also important to note that enrollment for kindergarten and sixth grade — bellwether years — remained steady this year, Thygesen said.

Enrollment in the Menlo Park district isn't expected to return to current numbers until new housing is built around 2023, according to Williams' report. There are 580 projected new residences in the next six years, which should bring in about 98 district-enrolled students in 2023, according to the report.

Las Lomitas Superintendent Cesario said her district will maintain programs like electives, "even as our enrollment goes down; we can afford to keep those.

School districts' final enrollment numbers are submitted to the state in early October.

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8 people like this
Posted by Danarama
a resident of Woodside School
on Sep 19, 2018 at 12:29 pm

Danarama is a registered user.

Any idea how this compares to enrollment in private schools in the area?

2 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2018 at 1:21 pm

Neilson Buchanan is a registered user.

Hmmm... "Hotbed" seems to be a misnomer in these towns.

14 people like this
Posted by No on Measure Z
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Sep 19, 2018 at 1:46 pm

Less pupils yet the PVSD wants to spend $49.5 million on new buildings with Measure Z? How much does the the lower enrollment figure equate with the spending per pupil now? In line with Neilson's comment above, parents are too stressed out earning money to pay all the extra taxes, to think about rearing more children to use the shiny new makerspaces.

9 people like this
Posted by Definitely NO on Z
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Sep 19, 2018 at 5:15 pm

Let's not forget that the "49.5 million" is actually only part one of the plan for two separate bonds, two years apart, totaling 70 million dollars. This does not seem to include the money already spent on the consultant company, the architects, etc. They are also not advertising that the current architectural design would call for removing part of the newly installed playground. Or has this changed?

4 people like this
Posted by No to elitiZm
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Sep 19, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Why can't we opt just to maintain the PVSD buildings for $11 million, instead of bond measures which will exceed $70 million for schools where enrollment is dropping? How can PV stomach this brand of elitism when other school districts are suffering from lack of books, teachers, safe buildings? Where is their social conscience? I want to choose where I spend my $$, not be forced to donate via a badly advised bond measure to a district that can waste money, without checks or balances, on things that have little relevance, in the big picture, on kids' education.

8 people like this
Posted by resident mp
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2018 at 10:07 pm

It's time to consider a merger. Tiny districts cannot offer what larger districts can offer and in addition to cost savings, the students would benefit by having more choices/programs, as long as the quality control remains.

When will the community take a consolidating districts?

4 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 20, 2018 at 11:51 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Danarama asked:
"Any idea how this compares to enrollment in private schools in the area?"
Hopefully they have gone up.

These District's could definitely afford to encourage "choice" by offering to fund a portion of private school tuition for those choosing to remove their children from the district. As the article notes: "Little of their funding depends on enrollment, so dropping enrollment actually means there are more funds available per student."

See: Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Yet More Of The Same Nonsense
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2018 at 3:59 pm

Back riding *that* dead horse again, Hickey?

It's amazing how you are willing to swallow what Betsy DeVos puts out. Of course, you and DeVos are out to destroy the public education system -- which should be a concern to all clear-thinking people out there.

9 people like this
Posted by jakjak
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Sep 20, 2018 at 4:12 pm

JAck wants vouchers, which are just welfare for affluent families that will send their kids to private school, anyway.

Jack loves the welfare state, as long as it is for the rich and for corporations.

Yay Jack! Keep fighting for the wealthy!

5 people like this
Posted by Georgia
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 20, 2018 at 10:29 pm

Vouchers would be really good. They would let people like me send there children to private schools. Vouchers help us much more than the 1%

4 people like this
Posted by Charter advocate
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 21, 2018 at 12:28 pm

Charter advocate is a registered user.

Being against vouchers is the politically correct way that "progressives" justify keep poorer children in their failing schools.

Families that live in poorer neighborhoods with failing schools would love to have a way to be able to send their kids to a better school. Anti-charter, anti-voucher advocates say too bad for you.

13 people like this
Posted by jakjak
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Sep 21, 2018 at 12:39 pm

"Anti-charter, anti-voucher advocates say too bad for you."

Nice try. We say fund all schools to support all our children, not give a few bucks as welfare for private school attendees.

We say charters are fine, with appropriate regulation, transparency and accountability.

Otherwise, charters can be phenomenally bad for students, as fraudsters rake in money off the top.

Just in California:

"Report: Fraud and waste in California’s charter schools
By In the Public Interest

Public funding of California’s charter schools now tops $6 billion annually. Despite this substantial investment, governments at all levels are unable to proactively monitor the private groups that operate charter schools for fraud and waste. Most public school districts aren’t given adequate resources to oversee operators, especially large charter management organizations (CMOs), while all lack the statutory authority to effectively monitor and hold charter schools accountable.

This report builds on existing research to show that, due to this lack of oversight, an untold amount of public funding is being lost each year. Only the tip of the iceberg is visible, but this much is known: total alleged and confirmed fraud and waste in California’s charter schools has reached over $149 million."


Last month in Oakland:

"They allege that Hatipoglu surreptitiously changed his employment contract to provide himself with three years' worth of severance pay totaling about $450,000, an unusually large sum for a small school with an annual budget of approximately $3 million. His previous contract provided for only six months of severance pay, a standard in the education sector."

4 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 21, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

The biggest fraud is STSRS and CalPers "defined benefit" pensions.

4 people like this
Posted by Yet More Of The Same Nonsense
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2018 at 3:35 pm

No, Hickey -- the biggest fraud happens to be you.

And the fact that you're running for re-election -- AFTER you said you wouldn't -- shows how much of a fraud you happen to be.

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