Cheryl and Jamie King, a mother-daughter team of demographers, told board members that the Mountain View Whisman Elementary School District is facing higher enrollment now that more parents are keeping their children in Mountain View schools.
The Kings, giving a presentation of their study at a March 19 board meeting, said this change can be partially attributed to the district becoming more stable after the close of Slater Elementary School in 2006. More families staying in the Bay Area for high-tech jobs also helps to explain the increase in students remaining in the district.
But as schools retain more students each year, the district must plan for the future, especially since many schools already are starting to become overcrowded, the demographers said. The district currently has 4,460 students, and the study projects this number will jump to 4,903 by the 2012-13 school year. The district's current capacity is 4,830 students.
"Things are tight, so they are going to get extremely tight," Jamie King told trustees.
The study was commissioned last year after the district reached enrollment numbers not expected until 2011. The district has not had a demographic study conducted in 10 years, and administrators said they wanted an updated analysis as they plan for the future.
"We knew we had an issue because our numbers were three years ahead of the numbers in the last demographic study," said Craig Goldman, the district's chief financial officer.
A committee of administrators and an architect have been discussing a 10-year master plan for the district's facilities, which could suggest expanding schools or taking back campuses the district leases out, Goldman said. The committee will bring its proposal to the board for approval in June.
According to the recent study, the district's population is growing at a rate similar to the rest of the county, but the schools here are starting to retain more of their students, helping to explain the larger enrollment numbers.
"We are seeing an increase in the number of students who do not leave the district," Goldman said.
The demographers, who work for Jack Schreder & Associates, came up with their enrollment numbers in part by looking at "migration," a term for "how many students stay in a district year to year," Cheryl King said. Traditionally, Mountain View elementary and middle schools have a "negative migration," meaning fewer students return each year.
If the district "has fewer second grade students than they did first grade students the prior year, this would indicate negative migration," the study says.
Although this negative rate still exists, the demographers explained it is starting to stabilize now, three years after the district closed Slater. The schools experienced a rise in "negative migration" from 2002 to 2005. From 2004 to 2005, the district lost 202 students. In 2007-08 this number was down to 74 students.
The increase can also be attributed to more families moving to the Bay Area. Many left Silicon Valley following the dot-com bust, Goldman said, but people are once again coming back for high-tech jobs. Many of these families are choosing to enroll and keep their children in Mountain View schools.
"Even though the economy is in decline, we are in better shape than in other parts of California. There are not a lot of greener pastures out there," he said.
He added, "It is our belief that the quality of our schools is why families are staying in our schools. I am sure there are other variables out there."
After seeing a significant increase in students last year, trustees changed district boundaries and also moved a magnet program to a new campus, all in an effort to alleviate crowding.
The so-called Facilities/Master Plan Committee is now looking at ways to further address overcrowding, and will present its findings to the board in June. The committee is focusing on population trends in specific neighborhoods, and looking at which schools have received the biggest enrollment increase.
Besides its eight schools, the district owns four additional properties, including Slater, and Goldman said the committee could consider expanding current sites or "reoccupying campuses."
"Expansion," he said, "is the reason we hold onto property."