Mountain View Voice

News - August 26, 2011

Back to school: more students, more choices

by Nick Veronin

Mountain View elementary and middle schools are taking on more students this year and adding to their course offerings, and the local high school district is remaining about the same size but expanding the number of classes they offer, officials from both districts said.

According to superintendents Barry Groves of the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District and Craig Goldman of the Mountain View Whisman School District, each of their respective districts is prepared for a growing student body, even as they have been forced to make difficult cuts in recent years.

However, a week into the school year, the Mountain View-Los Altos district had yet to exceed the number of students it had at the end of last year and was running just about even with last year.

Mountain View Whisman, on the other hand, has already seen an increase of roughly 150 students, district-wide.

"It was an expected increase," Goldman said. "We were prepared."

Teachers have been hired and classes have been added in both districts.

In Goldman's district, about 30 new teachers have been hired to address the increase — the bulk of which has come in the form of what Goldman described as a "bubble" of middle school students.

Some of the teachers have been assigned to Mountain View Whisman's elementary schools, Goldman said, but more have gone to the middle schools — and not only to core classes like math and English. Goldman said that this year there was a better student-to-teacher ratio in his district's performing arts classes as more sections drama and music classes have been added.

Groves called this year's first week of school at Mountain View-Los Altos, "one of the very smoothest openings we've had for our school district," an assertion backed by Brigitte Sarraf, the district's associate superintendent who has been with MVLA for 40 years.

The smooth opening was due to a variety of factors, Groves said, including a new online registration system and a lot of hard work that was done in advance of the first day by teachers and the student government.

New classes being offered at either Mountain View or Los Altos include Mandarin and a computer programming course. Groves said the district is expanding its masonry class. Students taking the construction class will now have the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to be a plumber, electrician and carpenter. There are also two new advance placement physics offerings this year, including a class on mechanics, electricity and magnetism.

Currently, 3,361 teens have enrolled in Mountain View-Los Altos — two fewer than the number of students enrolled at the end of last school year — but that number is expected to grow as more students trickle in.

The district anticipates a 20-25 percent growth in its student body over the next decade. However, Sarraf and Groves said that there has been a lower attrition rate this year than in recent years. Sarraf speculated that lethargic housing and jobs markets might be causing people to stay put who would otherwise be looking to move on to a new job or a bigger house in a better fiscal climate.

"The truth is, we really don't know," she said.

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