Criticism from neighbors and a letter from city planners about over-enrollment at Castilleja School have led the Palo Alto school to back off from immediate plans to boost its enrollment even further.
The independent middle and high school for girls says when school starts Aug. 30 it will launch a host of traffic-control measures, including a new morning shuttle service for students from Woodside, Portola Valley and Los Altos, to ease congestion on the residential blocks of Bryant Street, Kellogg Avenue and Emerson Street surrounding the school.
Castilleja hopes the new measures will quell criticism that its current enrollment of 448 exceeds the enrollment cap of 415, imposed by the city in 2000.
Head of School Nanci Kauffman disclosed the excess enrollment in a July 18 meeting with neighbors, in which she unveiled plans to seek city permission to grow enrollment even further, to 515. The school has backed off from that idea, saying it's now focused on assuring the city it can manage the traffic generated by its current enrollment of 448. That number exceeds the school's use permit by 33 students.
"We owe our neighbors an apology," Kauffman said Thursday.
"We were wrong to assume we could attempt to correct our non-compliance and also increase our enrollment, without first effectively managing the existing parking and traffic conditions that our neighbors deal with on a daily basis.
"But I hope the community won't lose sight of the fact that we informed the neighbors we were out of compliance because we wanted to make a correction."
The over-enrollment came about because more students than anticipated have accepted Castilleja's offers of admission, Kauffman said.
About 10 neighbors attended the July 18 meeting, in which Kauffman said the school had informed the city of the excess enrollment but still wanted to increase its student population further, to 515, and institute new traffic-control measures.
Neighbors at the meeting said traffic already is intolerable and they could not imagine dealing with higher enrollment.
Kauffman said the need to boost enrollment was driven by high demand for spots at the $36,800-a-year school, where about 20 percent of students receive tuition assistance. She called it "truly sad" that Castilleja must turn away many highly qualified applicants.
In addition, new revenue is needed to meet the cost of offering a top-notch program which, in today's world, includes computer science, Mandarin, digital fabrication and a strong arts component, she said.
But for now, the school said in a statement: "We have no plans to seek approval of a new conditional use permit for any further increase in the enrollment limit over the projected 448 girls at this time."