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Enrollment drops as LASD looks to add a campus

District officials to discuss 10th site at Oct. 8 meeting

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Early enrollment data shows that fewer kids are attending schools in the Los Altos district compared to prior years, shedding 160 students from last year. This marks the fourth year of the district's downward enrollment trend.

But Los Altos School District officials have long held that the recent drops in enrollment -- including the one this year -- reflect the short-term ebbs and flows of children entering and leaving the district. They argue the thousands of new housing units being built in the Mountain View portion of the district will more than make up for the decrease in the coming decade.

The district's enrollment was 4,243 students as of Oct. 3, with the possibility of small increases as the 2018-19 school year goes on, according to Superintendent Jeff Baier. This is down from 4,403 students last year, and adds up to a total of 432 fewer students in the district since the 2014-15 school year, according to state data.

The latest dip shows every school's enrollment got smaller this year, with the exception of Covington Elementary School. Total changes since 2014 show Loyola Elementary has lost the most students at 122, followed by Springer Elementary at 70, while Covington gained 32 students. The largest elementary schools currently are Almond, Santa Rita and Covington.

The district's enrollment is under scrutiny as school board members move forward with plans to purchase land and open a new school in Mountain View. Critics, the most vocal of whom are members of the Bullis Charter School community, contend that buying expensive real estate for a new school at the corner of Showers Drive and California Street makes little sense, given the decline in enrollment and the availability of land at existing campuses.

So why is the district talking about a new school when enrollment is trending down? Board members have long argued for the need to look 20 or 30 years into the future with regard to buying land and building schools, so fluctuations in enrollment today shouldn't distract from the long-term needs of the district tomorrow. More than 1,400 housing units are either approved or under construction in the San Antonio region of the city. According to past demographic reports, those units are expected to generate a little over 200 children. All three district's largest three elementary schools serve San Antonio students.

Baier said that the district's enrollment, including students attending Bullis Charter School, is back to where it was in the 1970s when the district had 12 campuses. Today the district has nine school sites, which he said puts a strain on the district's facilities.

"We know our community is growing and that student enrollment will increase with thousands of homes to be constructed over the next decade," Baier said in an email. "To resolve our capacity issues now and for decades to come, a 10th site is essential to protect our small school academic model and record of student achievement that is among the best in the state."

The district's demographic studies show a consistent pattern of over-predicting the number of children the district will have to educate. In 2015, the district was told there could be between 4,475 and 5,092 students in the district, and each subsequent year the predictions were notched lower and lower. The latest forecast in May projected there would be between 4,201 and 4,464 students, with today's student body coming in at the bottom end of the range.

Plans for future facilities have major implications for Bullis Charter School, which relies on the Los Altos School District for its facilities, but the charter school's board of directors showed little interest in the tenth school site. Several members of the charter school's board of directors questioned whether the expensive real estate purchase was necessary during a meeting last week, and wondered if the district was really headed toward higher enrollment.

Bullis board member Rich Ying said the high cost of building in the Bay Area is putting construction of many entitled projects on hold, and that the type of residential projects -- high cost one- and two-bedroom apartments -- aren't known for attracting families with children. Bullis board member Ann Waterman Roy pointed out that kids expected to live in the new housing could likely be absorbed in existing schools, roughly offsetting the recent enrollment declines.

The charter school, which is housed in portables split between Egan and Blach junior high schools, grew by hundreds of students while Los Altos School District enrollment shrank, but it's unclear how much Bullis will grow in future years. Charter school representatives say they intend to increase enrollment to 1,200 students in the next few years, but it's unknown what facilities the district will provide to house that growth.

It's unclear whether the charter school will be placed, in part or in full, on the new Mountain View campus. The Los Altos School District's board of trustees are scheduled to discuss the plans for the future tenth school site on Oct. 8, and could take action at that meeting.

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16 people like this
Posted by Measure N voters were lied to
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2018 at 1:32 pm

Voters were told that Measure N was needed to deal with enrollment growth. Now we see clearly that enrollment is TANKING. The problem is particularly acute in the lower grade levels. Not only is enrollment declining, it will continue to decline for the foreseeable future. It does not matter if new housing is being built in LASD. It won't offset the decline in birth rates in the district and California at large. We are all headed towards a future with an aging population and very few kids around. LASD needs to make better use of existing land and use the Measure N bond funds to upgrade existing schools.

14 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2018 at 1:46 pm

LASD is purchasing new land despite significant enrollment declines, they are undecided on which community it will serve (NEC or BCS) and they have not developed detailed enough plans to pinpoint construction costs? This is reckless spending of our Measure N tax dollars! Please please use your voting power in November and do not re-elect these trustees.

16 people like this
Posted by Twelve school numbers
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2018 at 2:17 pm

LASD has touted this bit about once having more schools repeatedly. What they do not consider is that at the same time, its true that before that, they had a much larger enrollment. They simply were slow in closing schools when the enrollment dropped before. Before too long they dropped down to 8 total schools, with 2 junior highs. Another thing they often overlook is that in about 2008, the finally opened their 9th school again. THey have ALREADY reverted. It took years for them to grow into needing that 8th school, which they did in 2014. But this was their PEAK YEAR!
Since then they have dropped and dropped.

You can make really bad decisions if you cherry pick data like this.

A key thing to realize is that Junior Highs are headed down to 400-450 students on average, and elementary schools are headed to below 400 as their average size, with
several way way below 400.

SO yeah, build a new school. Why not?

14 people like this
Posted by Vote YING LIU
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 8, 2018 at 2:42 pm

Vote YING LIU is a registered user.

As Concerned says, do NOT re-elect these trustees. Ivanovic and Johnson need to go. Vote for Ying Liu and only Ying so you don’t dilute her vote. She’s the only candidate that’s not part of the “screw BCS at any taxpayer cost” group. All the current trustees know that we don’t need a 10th site but Ying is the only one who will voice it. Get her on the board now before they waste more of our money on this shopping center fiasco.

14 people like this
Posted by Snow Job
a resident of The Crossings
on Oct 8, 2018 at 3:40 pm

We, the voters, have had our eyes pulled over us and the LASD political machinery and teacher's union have played us all to get us to take out our wallet and write these politicians a check that serves the wrong purpose.

We need to stop this people. Just like this November's mid terms are a referendum on the Republicans, we need our MeToo movement now wrt LASD. This cronyism can not continue. We can not allow the politicians on the school board to write a check that the next generation will cash.

Just like the then-LASD board made that fateful decision a decade plus ago which led to the formation of BCS and we, the current generation, are paying for that ill-fated decision, we are about to make the same mistake.

Fool us once is OK. Fool us twice and it's on us. Vote against LASD cronyism and let's use the funds to improve all of our sites rather than a decades old vendetta on an idiotic site for a new school that no one wants or needs.

12 people like this
Posted by Completely Irrational
a resident of Whisman Station
on Oct 8, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Grassley Ivanovic and Hatch Johnson are leading a highly political agenda to site BCS on a location that no parent wants and co-opting MV in this process. Collins-Logan is in the background still wielding her axe to grind against BCS. Why can't these people let it go?

There are 4K plus kids at stake watching you politicize this process. Can these LASD board members really look their kids in the eye and tell them that they are doing a public good? Wow that's rich.

The FBI should investigate their personal financial accounts to ensure there are financial incentives at work. It just doesn't make logical sense. You are hard pressed to find an average LASD family or North of El Camino Mtn View family admit that buying new land at the peak and placing all 1200+ of BCS there makes any sense.

Even the most self person should have a modicum of some moral compass but I guess our esteemed, legitimately elected LASD board is so much smarter than the rest of us.

1 person likes this
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2018 at 5:42 pm

Doug Pearson is a registered user.

LASD may well know know what they are doing, but I don't. I know noting about the recent agreements between LASD and Bullis that apparently toned down their war, and I suspect I would not understand them even if I did.

This article seems to be intended to provide useful information about the enrollment of the various LASD schools, but it's not very helpful. I don't know how many schools are in the LASD, but apparently Bullis is not considered one of the district's schools, even though the district must house Bullis.

The article says. "The district's enrollment was 4,243 students as of Oct. 3 ...". Those 4,243 students don't include Bullis because the article says, "every school's enrollment got smaller" except Covington, which "gained 32 students." The article also says Bullis enrollment "grew by hundreds of students while Los Altos School District enrollment shrank".

Even if Bullis is not considered a district school, the district must provide for (house) Bullis' students, so any discussion of where district enrollment is headed and how many school sites/how many classrooms are needed must consider both district enrollment and Bullis enrollment.

Can we see an article that compares existing classrooms (including Bullis classrooms) with existing students (including Bullis students); and considers where classrooms are under- and over-full, including Bullis classrooms. This discussion should also include the sizes of the various campuses, since one of the points of contention on the proposed new site is that it's too small. That might give a clearer picture of if and why a new school site is needed, including how many sites Bullis needs, and whether they should or should not share their sites with other schools.

I am especially concerned that Bullis is sharing junior high school sites. Is Bullis a junior high school? I don't think so, but could well be wrong, considering how little I know about the whole situation.

2 people like this
Posted by @ Doug
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2018 at 5:48 pm

Definitely fair, I think all of your questions should be answered. You are correct that Bullis is not part of LASD but LASD must house them. Also, BCS is K-8. Those are all the answers I know.

2 people like this
Posted by Facts
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2018 at 5:59 pm

Bullis is housed in 2 mini campuses with permanently installed modular buildings. The space is about right for 700 but they have 905 now. So the current shortfall is 205. Add in growth announced well in advance and the growth need is for 500. I think the point is that 500 is less than the projected drop at the LASD sites. Thus is all about isolation between the two types of school. $120 million of unneeded construction to enforce segregation between 1200 who elect charter and 3500 in the old programs. Bleh

Like this comment
Posted by Bullus now
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2018 at 6:17 pm

Bullis areas are separate but adjoin jr high sites. The main one was created 3 years before Bullis as a site for an LASD school.

12 people like this
Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Oct 8, 2018 at 6:55 pm

psr is a registered user.

This article is meant to make it sound like LASD has only district students to house. I assure that is not the case. The district is also responsible for providing space to Bullis, despite the fact that Bullis doesn't have to follow district rules. If you think that isn't so, then you should understand that Bullis will sue each and every time they think the district kids are getting one square inch more space than the Bullis kids.

The charter should be sent to the new site. If they balk, it becomes clear that they do not actually want a school to house their program, but rather they wish to make sure that another district school - ANY district school- is taken from the current students and given to them. If that is not the case, then give them the new school and they should be satisfied.

BTW If Ying Liu is such a proud Bullis parent, then why does that nice, expensive, full-color political mailer (no doubt financed by the Bullis Foundation) I got in the mail yesterday not mention that fact anywhere on it? Could it be that she is trying to hide the fact that her children have not, and never will, attend district schools? Is the truth not part of what the voters are entitled to know?

26 people like this
Posted by QVC
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2018 at 8:18 pm

Pattie S Rotondo,

Stop spewing hate at your neighbors. Bullis Charter School is a valid alternative program for LASD students. You should be ashamed of yourself. Are you trying to become the new Joan J Strong?

22 people like this
Posted by The truth
a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2018 at 3:10 am

psr overlooks the fact that Bullis has been housed all this time, but in substandard facilities. One way to house them properly without affecting any neighborhood schools is to keep them where they are. Egan has never in its history used more than 12 acres of its 19 acre site so having Bullis on that 7-7.5 acre unused section hasn't affected LASD schools at all. At Blach, the district has idle land all over the place. Blach has less kids than Egan and spreads out over 16 acres of the 18 acre site. Before Bullis was there, the district leased out its little 2 acre postage stamp of land. LASD really tried to mess with Bullis by confining them to 2 acres of land for 300 of their 915 students. There was no reason to do this. Blach also can make use of 12 acres of land for 500 kids, like Egan does fpr 600. Increase the Bullis footprint to be 6.5 acres there and expand the portables.

It's way cheaper than spending $120 Million on construction of a weird school in San Antonio that would be too large to ever be a neighborhood school.

I have never heard Bullis ask for permanent buildings. What I have heard is LASD put words into their mouth and tell them they should only be 600 kids, and so LASD tries to say they can accept a smaller site but some odd style of building that would be very expensive (way more than Randy Kenyon claims he estimates).

So psr should consider that there is a straightforward way to solve Bullis needs.

Now, these facilities would work for 1200, but if Bullis does keep on growing, that's a different story. However, it can only grow if there is demand. LASD should put its efforts into being nicer to its own students, rather than using BCS as a common enemy. That has not worked very well.

What I see is BCS across 2 nicer sites, on a total of 14 acres of land with much more portable space than the district has been providing per student. They should get the SAME amount of space as district students, especially since this would be low cost portable construction about $300 per square foot for added amounts, compared to the districts $1200 per square foot cost to do the thing it CLAIMS is requested by BCS. I have seen no sign they are even interested in these palaces. What I see is them skeptical that the so called equivalent space will ever be provided.

5 people like this
Posted by Vote YING LIU
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2018 at 11:42 am

Vote YING LIU is a registered user.

@ the truth- while I agree with much of what you’re saying I don’t think that permanently housing BCS in portables equals comparable facilities. It makes more sense to give them Covington in exchange for an agreement to cap their enrollment. That way the other LASD elementary schools won’t feel threatened that they will eventually disappear as BCS continues to grow.

12 people like this
Posted by Vote YING LIU
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2018 at 11:49 am

Vote YING LIU is a registered user.

“BTW If Ying Liu is such a proud Bullis parent, then why does that nice, expensive, full-color political mailer (no doubt financed by the Bullis Foundation) I got in the mail yesterday not mention that fact anywhere on it? “

I don’t know who financed Ying’s mailer but it wasn’t the taxpayers so I don’t see a problem. On the other hand, the LASD BoT mailed out an expensive piece of propaganda to all residents inferring that neighborhood schools won’t remain small unless the shopping center school is built. Absolutely no truth to that but we the taxpayers paid for the propaganda nonetheless. Get rid of Ivanovic and Johnson to stop the wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars.

14 people like this
Posted by OPM
a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2018 at 7:59 pm

Back in 2014 they were saying enrollment was on a continuous growth curve. Now since then we see straight decline and a trend to continue more shrinkage even when adding the charter and old schools together. That is the real bogus mailer. Yet they insist they need to decide now to open a new site in 4 or 5 years down the line. How about buy the land and do not build on it at all. Many districts use portable buildings for entire new schools in such cases. They are doing the OPM thing. They keep lying to MV city staff. Great.

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