Student rates

California public school student enrollment drops to two-decade low – Daily News

California public school enrollment has fallen to its lowest level in more than 20 years, and local districts are facing tough decisions about how to deal with the decline.

the pandemic and rising house prices were blamed for much of the drop in numbers released by the state on Monday, April 11.

But few administrators seemed shocked by the figures because they followed the trends of recent years; the districts have prepared for what they see.

“We continue to graduate more students than enroll in kindergarten each year,” James Evans, principal on special assignment with the Temecula Valley Unified School District, wrote in an email.

Ryan Burris, spokesman for the Capistrano Valley Unified School District, said Orange County’s largest district was not caught off guard.

“For us, it was more about looking ahead and budgeting responsibly and we can plan accordingly. So we won’t be jumping off the cliff for a year,” Burris said.

New 2021-2022 school year data from the state Department of Education shows student enrollment fell by 110,000 students, down 1.8% from last year , but less than the drop of 161,000 the previous year.

LA County

In Los Angeles, while enrollment was down long before the pandemic for the nation’s second-largest school district, the attrition rate has accelerated, dropping nearly 48,600 students over the past two years. LA Unified’s overall enrollment this year is just over 548,300.

There are nearly 10,000 fewer children in the district today compared to two years ago.

Also of note, the class of 2032, whose students were in kindergarten when the pandemic hit in 2020 and are now in second grade, saw its enrollment drop by more than 18,000 students (31%). The Class of 2032 had 57,792 students two years ago; that number has fallen to 39,654 this year.

Likewise, the Class of 2023 – students who were in ninth grade when the pandemic hit and who are currently in 11th grade – lost more than 7,600 students, or 15% of its class, during this period.

It is unclear to what extent the decline in enrollment is due to the general decline in birth rates and families moving from Los Angeles to more affordable communities, and to what extent the loss is due to the frustration felt by some parents over to the district’s remote learning program, delayed school reopenings, and its handling of other pandemic-related issues.

Veronica Arreguín, director of strategy for the district, said in a statement that the district is developing a strategic plan to bring families back to LA Unified.

“The enrollment changes appear to reflect the needs of families and students in the wake of the pandemic, with 12th graders needing more time to complete graduation requirements and an influx of kindergarten students. who could have been enrolled in our exemplary kindergarten and transitional kindergarten programs last year,” she says.

In Long Beach, enrollment rates have fallen for nearly seven straight years.

Since the 2015-2016 school year, the Long Beach Unified School District has reported a total loss of 13% of the student body, according to Department of Education data.

LBUSD also reported decreases in every racial cohort excluding Native American students and students who have two or more racial identities.

But a significant portion of the drop in enrollment aligns with the COVID-19 outbreak. Since the fall 2019-20 semester before the pandemic and the first quarantine, LBUSD enrollment rates have dropped by 6.15%.

“We are well aware of the continuing trend of declining enrollment across the state and in our local schools,” LBUSD director of public information Chris Eftychiou said in an email on Monday, April 11.

Enrollment also fell in small public school districts in Los Angeles County’s South Bay. Manhattan Beach Unified has seen a 10% decline since 2019-20; Redondo Beach Unified enrollment dropped 5% over the same period; The Torrance Unified School District also saw a 5% decline.

And, like LAUSD and the rest of California, the Torrance school district — the largest in South Bay with more than 23,000 students — has seen declining enrollment for the past three years, spokeswoman Tammy said. Khan in an email.

TUSD is taking steps to reverse the downward trend, Khan said, including bilingual Spanish immersion programs and partnering with a dual-enrollment partnership with a local community college.

Orange County

In Orange County — where public school enrollment has fallen 7.6 percent over the past five years — several of the largest school districts have seen the number of children attending public schools drop precipitously. In the county’s second-largest district, Santa Ana Unified, enrollment is 16.9% lower today than it was five years ago, and 5.3% over the past year.

At Garden Grove Unified, enrollment was down 10.6% from five years ago and 3.8% from a year ago. In Capistrano Unified, the county’s largest district, the decline was less severe; 6.8% over the past five years and less than 1% over the past year. The only major district where enrollment has increased — Irvine Unified, where enrollment has increased 4.2% over the past five years — has also seen its population increase due to land annexation.

Orange County educators weren’t surprised to see the drop in enrollment. This is a trend that has been emerging for more than a decade.

“We’ve projected enrollment to decline based on the trends we’ve seen,” said Burris, the spokesperson for the Capistrano Unified School District, which saw its student population drop 7.2% from 53,878 students in 2015-16 to 49,974 this school year.

Enrollment affects the amount of money school districts receive from the state, so with far fewer students, districts like Capistrano Unified must consider cutting staff and consolidating resources — including closing campuses. , Burris said. It could also have an impact on the number of students in a class. Thanks to state and federal COVID-19 fundsmany districts have been able to reduce this ratio – at least temporarily.

But the pandemic has also exacerbated public school theft in many districts.

“COVID has played a huge role in accelerating this,” Burris said.

Many families — upset with state mandates and safety protocols like masks and vaccines — have turned to homeschooling and some have even left the state to avoid California regulations.

It is not clear when a State COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate for Students will go into effect, but once it does, Burris said “it will impact our registration. It’s unclear to what extent.”

In Santa Ana Unified, where the Latino community has been heavily impacted by the pandemic, COVID-19 has not been a significant issue in declining enrollment in the district, spokesperson Fermin Leal said.

Instead, the main causes of a decline in enrollment, he said, have been a falling birth rate and the high cost of living, particularly the high cost of housing.

“We see people leaving our area because it has become unaffordable,” Leal said.

At its peak, in the 2002-2003 school year, Santa Ana Unified had 60,973 students, according to a district report. Today, the district has 44,102 students. It is the second largest district in Orange County.

Santa Ana Unified hopes to keep its new lower student-teacher ratio, but may seek to consolidate more elementary schools with middle schools, he said. In recent years, the district has closed several elementary campuses and established K-8 schools.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties

Enrollment has fallen in each of the past two years in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, one of the largest in the Inland Empire, dropping from 53,037 students in 2019-20 to 51,013 in 2021-22 , according to state education data.

District spokesperson Ginger Ontiveros said the trends driving the statewide decline are also at play in San Bernardino.

A declining birth rate, for example, leads to fewer young people enrolling in elementary schools, Ontiveros said.

“The pandemic has put greater economic pressure on families,” she added, forcing some to leave the area.

“The high cost of housing is pushing people east and out of state,” she said.

In another of the interior region’s large public school systems, Corona-Norco Unified, enrollment has fallen from 52,557 in 2019-20 to 50,889 this year.

Enrollment has been declining for seven years “as families in the towns of Norco and Corona have matured and many students have aged outside of our system,” Superintendent Sam Buenrostro said in an emailed statement.

However, Buenrostro said the pandemic has accelerated the slide.

“We also know that parents are waiting longer to plan their children and are having fewer children than before,” he wrote.

Enrollment fell for the second straight year at Temecula Valley Unified School District campuses, which serve just over 28,000 students — about 5% lower than two years ago, state data shows. .

“In a community like Temecula, rising home prices are also causing more families to move into their second or third homes,” wrote Evans, the director of Temecula Valley Unified. “Many of these families have older children who are out of school.”

In the Redlands Unified School District, enrollment fell from 21,062 in 2019-20 to 20,352 in 2020-21, according to state data, then slipped a little further this year to 20,162.

District spokeswoman Christine Stephens wrote in an email that since the start of the 2021-2022 school year, enrollment is “slowly recovering to expected levels” in response to district initiatives.

Editor Kayla Jimenez contributed to this article.