As Palo Alto classrooms grow more racially diverse, Caucasian enrollment for the first time has dipped below 50 percent.
This fall's ethnicity breakdown in the K-12 Palo Alto Unified School District is 49.2 percent Caucasian; 36.6 percent Asian; 10.4 percent Hispanic and 3.2 percent African-American.
Eleven years ago, the figures were 67.3 percent Caucasian; 19.5 percent Asian; 7 percent Hispanic and 4.2 percent African-American.
The ethnic shifts were especially pronounced in the fast-growing early grades, with 46.7 percent of this fall's elementary enrollment Caucasian, 37.4 percent Asian, 11.9 percent Hispanic and 3.1 percent African-American.
The local ethnicity numbers were reported by the Palo Alto school district last week as part of the district's official enrollment report for 2011-12.
The school data reflects citywide trends noted in the 2010 U.S. Census, which saw Palo Alto's Asian population grow from 17.2 percent of the city in 2000 to 27.1 percent in 2010. Caucasian population in the same period declined from more than three-quarters of the city to less than two-thirds.
The Census also showed a growing population of kids, with 23.4 percent of local residents under 18 compared to 21.2 percent a decade earlier. Within the Asian population, 26.8 percent are under 18, compared with only 19.3 percent of the white population.
Ethnic enrollment varies considerably school-by-school.
At Hoover, a so-called "choice" elementary school emphasizing a more traditional, "direct-instruction" style of teaching, Caucasian enrollment is 13.2 percent and Asian enrollment is 79.8 percent.
At Addison, a neighborhood elementary school, Caucasian enrollment is 66.7 percent while Asian enrollment is just 20.6 percent.
The growing Asian school enrollment led the Palo Alto Council of PTAs to convene a three-part series titled "Growing up Asian in Palo Alto," aimed at discussing the intersection of Asian culture with Palo Alto and its schools. The series, which ran from spring 2010 to spring of this year, drew hundreds of Asian and non-Asian parents.
School collection of ethnic data is required by both the U.S. Department of Education and by the California Department of Education. A number of different laws mandate reporting of the data, including the California Education Code and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission work force reports.
Tonight's Board of Education meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.