Posted by QM, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Jan 16, 2009 at 7:09 pm
MV Voice - Nov 1st 2002
Does history repeat?
"The growth might be a result of the weak economy, since families whose kids were going to private schools are now turning to public schools."
After years of declining enrollment, the Mountain View-Whisman School District was taken by surprise this year when enrollment grew by more than 300 students.
"The enrollment is about 4,430 right now but when we started it was about 4,111," said Associate Superintendent Eleanor Yick. "It is a big growth shift for the district because we have had declining enrollment in the last five years."
The district made its spending projections for this year based on enrollment patterns of the old Mountain View and Whisman districts, which merged in 2000. Since the state funds the district on a per-student basis, the schools will end up with more income than they had projected.
"We are funded this year based on the average daily attendance from the last school year," explained Yick. The only problem with that is that even though a growth in enrollment would mean more money for the district, it will not be getting the money until the interim budget in December, when it puts in its final enrollment figures.
"I don't think we anticipated that we would grow," said Yick. "We were expecting our typical pattern, which is to grow, reach a peak and then start a downturn. We usually have a slow and steady growth, but this year we had incredible growth."
The growth might be a result of the weak economy, since families whose kids were going to private schools are now turning to public schools. Also, with lower rents people are finding that, for the first time in years, they can afford to live in Mountain View.
New classes and new teachers
Because of the increased enrollment, the district had to scramble to make changes in staffing and classes. "We needed to hire six additional teachers and start new classes," said Yick. The district opened a second grade class at Theuerkauf school and a kindergarten class at Monta Loma.
It was necessary to open these new classes in order to remain faithful to it's commitment to class sizes of 20 students or less in the lower grades. Students who are moved to the new classes were picked according to their enrollment dates and whether they live outside or within the district at the time of enrollment.
"We have fine tuned our process and we inform the parents a week or two in advance so that they can go to the school," said Yick. "We try to make it as smooth as possible but it is difficult because no one wants to move their child after they are settled."
Still, the whole process often leaves the parents angry and upset. Michael and Theresa Gallagher moved to Mountain View from Washington, D.C. after spending time researching schools in the area. They finally bought a house near Bubb, which they felt was the best school for their two daughters.
"We researched the area because wanted to make sure that we live within the Bubb and Huff jurisdiction," said Theresa. "We were very specific about where we wanted to live and so we were in communication with the district to check school boundaries."
According to Theresa, they were told by the principal at Bubb that the school was over enrolled in the second grade. But when they went to the district office, they were told that the enrolment for second grade was only one over, which was their daughter.
"They went ahead and enrolled us and we figured that since we had been accepted, we were fine. Then the confusion started," said Theresa. She believes that the final decisions about the enrollment numbers were made at a school board meeting, after which they were told that their second grader would be moved to Theuerkauf.
"Why did they accept us when the numbers were showing that they were over enrolled?" said Theresa. "Our child had started school and one week into the school they said that you have to transfer. We would have preferred to wait if we had been told that it might happen."
Luckily for the Gallaghers, their story had a happy ending. "We were getting ready to leave to go to the new school and we got a call that two second graders were leaving so were able to stay at Bubb," said Theresa.
Yick says that such situations are not rare and she often get phone calls from upset parents. "Most of the parents complain and I hate to be the bearer of bad news," said Yick. "Most of the time my hands are tied, I can go back and ask the school to fax the class list and recheck, even though it is rare that a mistake is made."
"I listen to them and try to work with them but don't want to give them false hope," she said. "I can understand their concerns but then you are going through a growth spurt."
"The most difficult year for the district is the first year that you start growing," Yick said. "The turnaround time is tough."
But fortunately for the school district, it has money in reserve to tide it over till December. "The board made the decision to always have a three percent reserve. That was prudent planning," said Yick.
E-mail Faiza Hasan at email@example.com