News

Los Altos School District enrollment drops as charter school expands

Data shows steady five-year decline in students across the district

Los Altos School District's enrollment has declined for the fifth year in a row, driving down the district's total enrollment to the lowest it's been since 2005, according to data released last month.

The decline is more pronounced than public school enrollment trends across Santa Clara County -- which has sagged in recent years -- likely due to a significant increase in charter school enrollment. As the district's student count dropped this year, Bullis Charter School enrolled more than 100 additional students.

The head count collected on Oct. 2 shows that enrollment in the district decreased from 4,243 students last year to 3,996 this year, the largest single-year loss of students going back to at least the 1990s. Enrollment shrank the most at Blach Intermediate School, followed by Loyola and Almond elementary schools.

Superintendent Jeff Baier said the enrollment decline is not necessarily a cause for concern, and that the district has long viewed enrollment as cyclical. Enrollment in schools expands and contracts over the long term, and right now it appears students are "aging" out of the district. The district also has to contend with countywide trends showing a decrease in birth rates, and the possibility that families may be moving out of the area or moving into the district at lower rates.

"That's what we've been kind of curious about and trying to dig into," Baier said. "In looking at information about departures at the end of the year, there certainly seems to be a number of families who are moving out of the area."

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Although some schools are getting pretty lean -- Garder Bullis Elementary is now at 289 students, and Loyola contracted from 573 students to just 362 over the last six years -- Baier said the schools are not at risk of closure or collapse. The school board's longstanding approach is that schools would vary in size over time with either two, three or four classrooms per grade level, and that neighborhood schools serving nearby families should be the prevailing model regardless of enrollment.

"The board has made clear we are committed to neighborhood schools," Baier said. "We think it's a critical element of high quality education in our district and it's what our community is clear about wanting."

The big factor that could be influencing the district's enrollment is Bullis Charter School. As of June last year, Bullis is no longer constrained by an agreement that kept its enrollment around 900 students. Now subject to an 1,111-student cap, Bullis reportedly grew this fall to 1,039 students, Baier said.

In past years, charter school leaders have said they frequently receive close to 1,000 requests for kindergarten enrollment, and hold an enrollment lottery to determine the 10% of the prospective families that can be admitted in a given year.

As part of an interim two-year agreement, the school district will provide enough classroom space on the Egan Junior High and Blach campuses to house the charter school students. A more permanent solution to house the charter school remains uncertain, as Los Altos School District's board of trustees continues to solicit feedback on where to put Bullis.

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Despite the decline in students, the Los Altos school district is still moving forward with plans to construct a 10th school site. Earlier this year, the district announced plans to buy land for $155 million in the San Antonio neighborhood of Mountain View -- which is within the Los Altos School District's boundaries -- in order to build a school roughly located at the corner San Antonio shopping center at California Street and Showers Drive.

Baier said the worry is that major residential development in the area is going to inundate the nearby schools in the coming years, which include Egan and Almond and Santa Rita elementaries. Two new complexes already under construction would add a combined 1,215 apartments, and plenty of new development is planned along the Los Altos side of El Camino Real. It's also unclear whether Federal Realty, which owns a large portion of the San Antonio shopping center including the Walmart, might build in the area.

"We've got time to plan for the thousands of units coming online, and even if we don't see it at our doorstep right now, we know it's coming," Baier said.

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Los Altos School District enrollment drops as charter school expands

Data shows steady five-year decline in students across the district

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 31, 2019, 2:11 pm

Los Altos School District's enrollment has declined for the fifth year in a row, driving down the district's total enrollment to the lowest it's been since 2005, according to data released last month.

The decline is more pronounced than public school enrollment trends across Santa Clara County -- which has sagged in recent years -- likely due to a significant increase in charter school enrollment. As the district's student count dropped this year, Bullis Charter School enrolled more than 100 additional students.

The head count collected on Oct. 2 shows that enrollment in the district decreased from 4,243 students last year to 3,996 this year, the largest single-year loss of students going back to at least the 1990s. Enrollment shrank the most at Blach Intermediate School, followed by Loyola and Almond elementary schools.

Superintendent Jeff Baier said the enrollment decline is not necessarily a cause for concern, and that the district has long viewed enrollment as cyclical. Enrollment in schools expands and contracts over the long term, and right now it appears students are "aging" out of the district. The district also has to contend with countywide trends showing a decrease in birth rates, and the possibility that families may be moving out of the area or moving into the district at lower rates.

"That's what we've been kind of curious about and trying to dig into," Baier said. "In looking at information about departures at the end of the year, there certainly seems to be a number of families who are moving out of the area."

Although some schools are getting pretty lean -- Garder Bullis Elementary is now at 289 students, and Loyola contracted from 573 students to just 362 over the last six years -- Baier said the schools are not at risk of closure or collapse. The school board's longstanding approach is that schools would vary in size over time with either two, three or four classrooms per grade level, and that neighborhood schools serving nearby families should be the prevailing model regardless of enrollment.

"The board has made clear we are committed to neighborhood schools," Baier said. "We think it's a critical element of high quality education in our district and it's what our community is clear about wanting."

The big factor that could be influencing the district's enrollment is Bullis Charter School. As of June last year, Bullis is no longer constrained by an agreement that kept its enrollment around 900 students. Now subject to an 1,111-student cap, Bullis reportedly grew this fall to 1,039 students, Baier said.

In past years, charter school leaders have said they frequently receive close to 1,000 requests for kindergarten enrollment, and hold an enrollment lottery to determine the 10% of the prospective families that can be admitted in a given year.

As part of an interim two-year agreement, the school district will provide enough classroom space on the Egan Junior High and Blach campuses to house the charter school students. A more permanent solution to house the charter school remains uncertain, as Los Altos School District's board of trustees continues to solicit feedback on where to put Bullis.

Despite the decline in students, the Los Altos school district is still moving forward with plans to construct a 10th school site. Earlier this year, the district announced plans to buy land for $155 million in the San Antonio neighborhood of Mountain View -- which is within the Los Altos School District's boundaries -- in order to build a school roughly located at the corner San Antonio shopping center at California Street and Showers Drive.

Baier said the worry is that major residential development in the area is going to inundate the nearby schools in the coming years, which include Egan and Almond and Santa Rita elementaries. Two new complexes already under construction would add a combined 1,215 apartments, and plenty of new development is planned along the Los Altos side of El Camino Real. It's also unclear whether Federal Realty, which owns a large portion of the San Antonio shopping center including the Walmart, might build in the area.

"We've got time to plan for the thousands of units coming online, and even if we don't see it at our doorstep right now, we know it's coming," Baier said.

Comments

Observer
another community
on Oct 31, 2019 at 2:25 pm
Observer, another community
on Oct 31, 2019 at 2:25 pm
24 people like this

These enrollment figures are indicative of a serious problem within LASD. What are LASD leaders doing to stem the tide of declining enrollment? Why are they continuing to pursue an expensive 10th school site which is not needed and nobody wants? Hey LASD, use the Measure N bond funds to upgrade existing schools!


Who remembers
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 31, 2019 at 8:33 pm
Who remembers, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 31, 2019 at 8:33 pm
5 people like this

Who remembers when Web 1.0 blew apart and we suddenly had breathing room again. It didn’t last, unfortunately, because everything that creates value in the twenty first century is here in MV. People will come and go, but we’re not going back to growing plums and apricots. Even Facebook isn’t a forever job


Dan Waylonis
Registered user
Jackson Park
on Nov 1, 2019 at 3:04 pm
Dan Waylonis, Jackson Park
Registered user
on Nov 1, 2019 at 3:04 pm
27 people like this

It seems like parents are voting with their choice for schools.

It's time to modernize the geography-based, bureaucratic, anachronistic school system. This is an area accustomed to meritocracy, dynamism, and experimentation. The school district and the unions are the opposite of that.

Time to just jettison the whole thing.


Value for money
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2019 at 1:02 pm
Value for money , Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2019 at 1:02 pm
8 people like this

Families are paying insane amounts of money to live in Los Altos, and are not going to settle for mediocre public schools. Yes, they are better than in the neighboring MV, but MV has many more relatively affordable housing options.
Maybe take some students out of our overcrowded schools. Or look into how you can provide value for the money it costs to live in Los Altos.
Having elementary schools running through 6th grade also doesn’t help. Many people move to Palo Alto to avoid fairly mediocre MV middle schools, but not as many move to Los Altos due to this issue.
So, there are two options. Make public schools more attractive to high income families in LASD, or get off your elitist high horse and let some neighbors in.


LASD is tone-deaf
another community
on Nov 2, 2019 at 3:30 pm
LASD is tone-deaf, another community
on Nov 2, 2019 at 3:30 pm
16 people like this

Baier says: "The board has made clear we are committed to neighborhood schools...it's a critical element of high quality education ... and it's what our community is clear about wanting."

This is a ridiculous statement. What incoming LASD parents clearly want is Bullis - that's why they grew by 20% in one year.

The only people that want "neighborhood schools" are 1) senior citizens whose kids graduated 20-30 years, and 2) current LASD school parents who are so entitled that they insist that their neighbors go to their kids' schools.

This tone-deaf statement is why Bullis keeps on going. Bullis appeals to parents who actually have a choice to make - they have kids that "will" be going to school.

LASD's value proposition of "neighbordhood" school is insanely tone-deaf. What they are saying is that parents should choose a school based on distance from home - so, like what - .7 miles away (LASD school) rather than 1.1 miles (BCS)?

A critical element of "high quality" education is to have our children go to a school that is slightly closer? Please. Enough of this insanity.


No Trust, Trustees
another community
on Nov 3, 2019 at 5:35 pm
No Trust, Trustees, another community
on Nov 3, 2019 at 5:35 pm
22 people like this

LASD decision makers do not want to make decisions. Its just too hard. We again, for the fourth or fifth time are headed strait for lawsuits. The kindest way to describe a large portion of the LASD community is misinformed . To this group here are a few truths. :

!. You can't dictate a cap to BCS has to agree to it---- and they are not going to get smaller. Plus like any deal you need to give them something in return.

2. You say over and over again, "we value small neighborhood schools" Great!, If this is really what you value, shouldn't the NEC get a LASD run school? Otherwise you sound like a complete hypocrite. What you are really saying is we don't think the NEC should have a school, they need to cross El Camino to come to our school, otherwise we will not have enough enrollment AND also we are going to send a large traffic jam to your neighborhood every morning . And no you can not require BCS to add in a neighborhood preference.

3. BCS parents and future parents are sending their kids to BCS because they want that program. IT is very, very different from what is offered in LASD. BCS just grew by over 100 students this year. These students came from LASD schools. The north campus as close to 800 students. People are not going to BCS because they want a small school experience, they can get that all put two or three LASD schools.



LASD is tone-deaf
another community
on Nov 4, 2019 at 8:55 am
LASD is tone-deaf, another community
on Nov 4, 2019 at 8:55 am
15 people like this

@No Trust, Trustees

You are right that "You can't dictate a cap to BCS"

And, if LASD offers the 10th site to Bullis, Bullis will just say "no". Then, it will grow, which means that Bullis Purissima will likely shrink to below two classes per grade, which means that it will close and be given to BCS.

Also, if LASD goes ahead with 10th site purchase, there will be more acres of school land, which means that Bullis will be entitled to 25+ acres. In another words, 10th site PLUS all of Egan or Covington.

LASD/needanotherlook.com's current tactics are only going to hurt themselves. You wonder if anyone over there thought the issues through or is this just some dumb power-trip by certain individuals.


Lala land
The Crossings
on Nov 4, 2019 at 10:01 pm
Lala land, The Crossings
on Nov 4, 2019 at 10:01 pm
21 people like this

Jeff and trustees live in Lala land. LASD Budget cannot afford to maintain 9 schools much longer with steady decrease in enrollment. They will have to consolidate schools and give 9th campus to BCS. 10th site will fail after MVCC refuses to continue to play games with LASD. Sangeeth and Peipei aka Bonnie and Clyde will have to find their own new games to play with LASD fan club.


Love it
Bailey Park
on Nov 5, 2019 at 5:57 am
Love it, Bailey Park
on Nov 5, 2019 at 5:57 am
6 people like this

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Observer
another community
on Nov 5, 2019 at 9:52 am
Observer, another community
on Nov 5, 2019 at 9:52 am
9 people like this

The "community engagement process" that LASD is currently undergoing is a well orchestrated sham. The "save our neighborhood schools" folks are sending out mass emails telling people how to vote at these so-called workshops. These fools don't understand that BCS will simply continue down the path of unchecked and unmitigated growth until LASD offers something of value to BCS in exchange for their agreement to a long term cap.


Suzi
another community
on Nov 6, 2019 at 7:53 am
Suzi , another community
on Nov 6, 2019 at 7:53 am
5 people like this

LASD is so afraid of actual community input that LASD affiliates are cheating on their own test.... From LAPolitico: "Unexpected community behavior – before and during the LASD BCS ideas workshops – means the ‘fully support BCS on 10th site’ data collected by MIG is fatally flawed. Problems include biased outreach, leaks of documents, undue influence on MIG’s ‘BCS ideas’ data reduction process, and selective dissemination of a “voting guide” before and during workshops. All those workshop particpants’ clicks and manhours are looking worthless for helping LASD trustees make facility decisions." Web Link


Pathological privileged
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 7, 2019 at 8:22 am
Pathological privileged, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 7, 2019 at 8:22 am
2 people like this

When you’ve known only privilege, fairness feels like oppression. I really can’t believe all the whining and rationalization we hear from the charter people when people accuse them of bias against others. They seem to want a private school, not a public school. This is not good.


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