In light of falling kindergarten enrollment rates, the Palo Alto school board could put off long-time plans to build a 13th elementary school at its meeting Tuesday, March 11.
Staff has recommended that the board delay all planning for the new elementary school, citing study sessions and discussions held over the past two years and a 2012 state law that established a later admittance date.
For the 2014-15 school year and beyond, kindergarteners must be 5 years old by Sept. 1 in order to enroll. Those with later birthdays can enroll in a "transitional kindergarten" program. Just 16 children enrolled in the first year of Palo Alto's program.
"The move to a later kindergarten start date has suppressed kindergarten enrollment for the past two years and will again in 2014-2015," the staff recommendations read. "These smaller cohorts will work their way through the elementary schools. This gives the District time to delay decisions regarding a thirteenth elementary site."
In the 2012-13 year, Palo Alto Unified enrolled 936 kindergarteners, compared to 959 the previous year and 972 in 2010-11, according to the California Department of Education's Educational Demographics Unit.
At a December 2013 board meeting, board members reviewed demographers' data that projected little or no elementary enrollment growth in the near term.
The board will also discuss extending leases for Stratford School and Athena Academy, two sites previously discussed as potential homes for the district's 13th elementary school. Athena Academy, which serves children with dyslexia, is located at 525 San Antonio Ave. The private Stratford School currently leases the former Garland Elementary School site at 870 N. California Ave.
Both leases are set to expire June 30, 2015. The board could extend the two leases by an additional year until June 30, 2016.
The board meets Tuesday, March 11, at 6:30 p.m. at 25 Churchill Ave.