Enrollment has been dropping in school districts throughout the state and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is no exception. SMMUSD enrollment peaked in the 2003-2004 academic year, but has been declining ever since.
Assistant Superintendent Mike Matthews explained at the February 7 School Board meeting that when the Board was discussing the District’s 20-year Facilities Master Plan they questioned “whether the enrollment projections that were used to create the Master Plan were accurate.” To answer this question the Board asked District staff to hire an outside firm “to do a thorough in-depth enrollment projection so they could compare it to the one they had before” creating the Master Plan.
During his presentation, DecisionInsite President Mike Regal told the Board that his firm found five dimensions to the enrollment decline in the District:
1. Declining kindergarten enrollment.
2. A decline in kindergarten students moving on to first grade.
3. A decline in the number of 8th graders moving on to 9th grade.
4. A decline in out-of-District enrollment.
5. The typical decline in 11th graders moving on to 12th grade.
Regal also noted that though the District has approximately 11,000 students, his firm is projecting that in 10 years the District will be “down to just above 10,000” students. Other districts in the state may see an enrollment increase in 2012, but this is not expected to happen in the SMMUSD because of an “an aging population” and the fact that many young families can’t afford to purchase homes in the District. He also mentioned that the decline in students moving from kindergarten to first grade, and the decline in students moving from eighth grade to ninth grade, was unusual “because oftentimes it is the opposite in districts.” He then recommended that the District look into the causes of this.
Board member Kathy Wisnicki mentioned that she “wasn’t surprised at the drop” in students moving from eighth to ninth grade “because more families are looking at private schools for an edge for college.”
Board member Jose Escarce was concerned that the analysis only looked at two factors when making their projections: kindergarten enrollment and the movement of students from one grade to another. Regal noted that his firm’s analysis did not include the “impact of new residential development” because “it was not a big issue immediately” in the District. However, it could be taken into account in the future if necessary.
Superintendent Dianne Talarico told the Board that the report findings will impact Facilities Master Plan projects at the elementary school level more than the secondary school level based on the “type of projects planned” at the secondary level, such as state-of-the art labs and media centers. At the elementary level it will effect the relocating of portable classrooms and the building of permanent classrooms.