News

Elementary enrollment in Palo Alto shoots up

Middle schools are 'slightly up' while high schools are down, superintendent says

Elementary classrooms were bursting Tuesday as Palo Alto students showed up for the first day of the 2010-2011 school year.

"Elementary-level enrollment is up -- we don't know how much yet, but it's fairly dramatic," Superintendent Kevin Skelly told the Board of Education Tuesday night.

Middle school enrollment showed a "slight increase," while high school enrollment was down.

Skelly said elementary enrollment may even "exceed the high projections we had at the beginning of the year," while middle and high-school enrollment will fall beneath the low-end projections.

Official enrollment figures are not calculated until early September.

The bumper crop of little ones means some K-3 class sizes will be at 22 -- and in some cases 23, he said.

Classes went to 23 "when we got to the position that we didn't have any more seats. In general, (K-3) classes are very close to 22," Skelly said.

Fourth- and fifth-grade class sizes are between 20 and 24, he said.

Last year's official district-wide enrollment, taken on the 11th day of school, was 11,680, up 249 from the previous year.

To accommodate projected growth, the district in 2008 and 2009 developed plans to re-open Garland School at 870 North California Ave. as a thirteenth elementary campus.

The school board retreated from that plan a year ago, citing financial uncertainties. The Garland site currently is under lease to Stratford School, an independent pre-K through 5 school.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I am not surprised a bit. Almost every household in the new housing developments in Palo Alto has kids, often at least 2. People move to Palo Alto for the schools. Somehow everybody underestimated the effect of new construction on the school's enrollment.
New housing developments must be carefully considered from all aspects and we need to stop the state or federally mandated "affordable housing" construction unless it comes with SUFFICIENT money for schools.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2010 at 5:06 pm

It is about time that the district started using a little more common sense and was less dependent on data from what is norm or typical as far as demographers use. Palo Alto is very different from typical cities as people are moving here for schools. This is even very apparent from realters and new home developments. The development at the end of Loma Verde on Bayshore even has signs in the street advertising they are in Gunn High School, when in fact they are in Paly.

Low and medium priced homes appear to be selling almost as soon as they are on the market although the more expensive homes appear to take longer to sell. The rental market appears to be very active also. All these people moving to Palo Alto and they all have young children, not teenagers.

I know this, not because I am a demographer, but because I live here, talk to neighbors, meet new neighbors, and keep my eyes on what is going on. It is time the district did similarly.

Now I suppose we will go through the Garland debate again. I hope that this time they don't try and turn it into a mega elementary school. As an alternative, they could also put some thought into opening Greendell as another elementary in the south. The activities which are there at present could be moved elsewhere to the Cubberley site and a neighborhood school could be opened there.


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Posted by Huh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2010 at 10:14 am

Isn't it time to get rid of Tinsley? They are in the Sequoia school district and can go to those schools in RWC and Belmont. There are some 200 kids from Tinsley, correct? We are overcrowded now and spots should go to those who live and PAY mortgages and rent in Palo Alto.

When the Tinsley kids get to Jordan, most cannot handle the workload. They self-segregate (they know each other from the bus rides). They don't want to meet other students for school projects because many do not have transportation or the desire to work on schoolwork. My child was friends with one in elementary school but that did not last because at Jordan, all the EPA kids hung out together and their interests, lifestyles were different. Plus, many have reduced-fee lunches so by the time they get through the lines, there was no time left to eat. How are they helping our schools?


Like this comment
Posted by A taxpayer
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 11:00 am

It is far past time we get rid of the Tinsley program-- and we should be doing assertive monitoring to make sure that every child in Palo Alto schools actually lives in Palo Alto. The burden of proving that is only onerous if you don't live here.

I paid a lot of money to live in a tiny and poorly- constructed old house so that my children can go to school here. I'm outraged that there are parents out there abusing the system and attempting to send there kids to school in PA even though they don't live in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Grandma
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2010 at 11:07 am

Huh says: Isn't it time to get rid of Tinsley? As an individual you could file a law suite to have it dismantled but before you do so you must get the agreement of all the six school districts involved in the Tinsley transfer program.

A couple of years ago the new Superintendent of Menlo Park School District announced he was going to dismantle Tinsley. Then he got shot down by his School Board because it would be extremely difficult to get the agreement of all six school districts involved in the program.

Because of the politics at the time (1970s) Tinsley was wrapped up in extremely complex legal maneuvering to prevent any one district from withdrawing from the agreement. Although five of the School Districts are in San Mateo, the PAUSD was included because Palo Alto was the closest School District to Ravenswood Elementary.

Tinsley is with us forever and each year a few more children are added to our School District, over almost 40 years the numbers just increase.

I don't understand why families move to PA, the Cupertino School District is just as good as ours.


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2010 at 11:30 am

I believe there are about 600 Tinsley students, 60 new ones each year, but many seem to leave around HS age (perhaps because we stop bussing them?)


Like this comment
Posted by No surprise
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2010 at 11:45 am

If they open Garland, the district has said that more than HALF of the students would have to come from south Palo Alto, requiring young children to cross Oregon EXPRESSWAY to get to school.

Instead, open Greendell as a neighborhood school. Keep the lease revenue from Garland. Be practical. South PA is where the big enrollment growth is going to be. Could Ventura be used for Preschool Family?

A very high percentage of existing homes in south PA are owned by seniors, age 80+. (See census data. PA Weekly, this would be a GREAT story. Are you willing to do some hardcore research?) The school capacity that was built for these homes hasn't been used for years (we've been filling that capacity with kids from the new housing) and these long-time residents are starting to sell...to families with young children)

This should not be a surprise.



Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2010 at 11:53 am

Huh? says: "How are [the EPA students] helping our schools?"

Me: How do you think the Paly football team is so good? Gunn is part of the same city yet their team sucks.


Like this comment
Posted by Underwhelmed
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Aug 26, 2010 at 12:17 pm

My child went through the PA school system (we're in a part of LAH that goes to PA schools) and I was underwhelmed by the teaching, curriculum, and overall school environment. It's a lot of hype, and you people who overpaid for your "poorly constructed" houses just so your kids could go to PA schools are the victims of a huge PR campaign. Palo Alto students score high on tests for two main reasons: 1) a lot of Stanford faculty kids are in the system, and these kids are inherently bright, motivated, and get top-quality tutoring/coaching at home around the dinner table; 2) PA parents spend fortunes on outside tutoring programs (Score, Kumon). The schools themselves and the teaching are mediocre. Los Altos schools are better, IMO based on discussions with LAH parents whose kids went there.


Like this comment
Posted by soccer mom
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm

In response to "Me". Gunn High School's football program is improving under the new coach hired last year. You might be pleasantly surprised. Go Titans!


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I agree that much of the success in PAUSD has to do with the following:

inherently bright students
LOTS of outside tutoring (I hardly know anyone who has not gotten some kind of outside assistance for their student)
Involved, (over involved?) parents

If any of you are on Facebook or LinkedIn, look at the backgrounds of your kids friends parents - Stanford, MIT, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, etc. Bright, accomplished parents tend to have bright, accomplished kids. Despite the deficiencies of the District.


Like this comment
Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 26, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Dear Huh?,
In response to your query, "Huh? says: "How are [the EPA students] helping our schools?"", I would like to propose that you answered that question yourself when you said that, "your child was friends with one" in grade school.

The Tinsley agreement is very much a cultural exchange whether that was one of the original ideas or not. It helps our children and their parents by "exposing" us to cultures and peoples from all over the world whose daily lives and struggles may be different from our own. This exchange helps keep the Palo Alto Bubble of relative uniformity from completly blinding us.


Like this comment
Posted by just a thought
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 8:32 pm

So has anyone noticed the correlation between the stress on school budgets and the exponential effects of Prop 13? I am sick of bond campaigns spearheaded by people who have lived in Palo Alto for 20 years and are paying 1/8 of the property tax of their neighbor who was transferred here last year. Prop 13 makes sense for retired or fixed income situations but our school funding crisis is directly impacted. If we are really serious about making long lasting decisions for the best of our children I think we should take a look at this sacred cow.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I suggest that the six Tinsley Districts pool their bus budget and rebuild, perhaps with stimulus money, Ravenswood/Tinsley High School. establish a cultural interchange program whereby students from the 6 Tinsley Districts could cycle through Ravenswood/Tinsley in a structured program that would not let self-segregation defeat its aims.
Tinsley didn't work. At its very best it was punish White Flight program with vaporware for the real objectives. At its worst it amplified in the minds of transfer students their differences.


Like this comment
Posted by One Gunn mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 26, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Stop attacking Tinsley--it will take a lawsuit and many years to overcome, so just live with it--it is not something you can easily change.

As far as forecasting enrollment is concerned--it is only as good as today. If you have never been responsible for forecasting sales for your company--don't comment. Missing forecast in a company can mean cutting jobs, lost stock value--it is very painful. If you exceed forecast, it is great. Unfortunately for schools, exceeding forecast is very bad. I have worked with PAUSD on the forecasts and they are OK but not perfect. There is no crystal ball and if someone wants to help, the school district will probably welcome it.


Like this comment
Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 26, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Expect another bumper crop next year, and the year after, and the year after that. This is not news. The district has known about these kids and has expected this growth but decided they didn't want to spend the money to open Garland to accommodate the growth. Instead they will keep increasing class size one-by-one until we're back up to 30 just to make a few hundred thousand dollars in lease income from Stratford.

I notice that Mr. Skelly stated that some classes have 23 students, yet the district put the cap at 22 this year. I wonder how this is allowed to keep happening. Why aren't parents pushing back? Our parcel tax should be paying for 20:1. Not 22 or 23. There are still many districts in California with state funding with 20:1 in K-3.

The school district should not be thinking about how much lease revenue it might be losing from Stratford when they take Garland back. They need to only ever be thinking about the quality of education of our kids. It's always about the kids.


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 27, 2010 at 8:07 am

Erin -

I'm curious when the District knew about the larger number of elementary kids - back at the registration time early in the year, or did a lot of kids register this summer? If it is this summer, it is too late to open a school or even add a portable. Enlarging the class size is the only way to accommodate last minute registrations.

But we should be more proactive next year - whether it is opening a school, adding a portable to an existing school, etc.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 8:07 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"Stop attacking Tinsley--it will take a lawsuit and many years to overcome, so just live with it--it is not something you can easily change."
Funny, that is exactly what everyone said to me when, back in the 50's I started attacking segregation. But of course they didn't call segregation "Tinsley" back then. It was just keeping them with "their own kind" for "their own comfort". I didn't like unctuous piety back then and nothing has happened since then to change my opinion.
HAVING ONE LAW FOR WHITE AND A DIFFERENT LAW FOR BLACK IS INTRINSICALLY WRONG. Live with it!


Like this comment
Posted by Nora
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 27, 2010 at 12:11 pm

It's time to think what to do with the high schools. At Paly some classes have 39 children, and at least on the first day of school they were not enough chairs for all the students.


Like this comment
Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 27, 2010 at 1:48 pm

They have had the projections since they started working on the designs for Garland. The latest figures I saw were from January of last year. The district knows to always bank on at least the medium to high projection. It is purely bad foresight and greed that kept them from going forward with the plan to reopen Garland.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Erin

Like you I think that the BoE had bad foresight and greed changing their plans on Garland. However, I think that their plans for a mega elementary school were a bad idea and I hope that perhaps they can reconsider what they want to do with the Garland site.

At present, most of the new construction in Palo Alto is in the south of the City and PAUSD does have a site in the south. One option may be to take back Garland and use it for preschool family and Young Fives and leave the Greendell site for another elementary. Using Garland for this could perhaps alleviate the middle school crunch as perhaps some of the classrooms could be used to help Jordan as we have less options for increasing middle school space.

I know that there are many in the immediate Garland neighborhood who were looking forward to having an elementary school open, but there were a great number of people in the south who were not happy about having to cross Oregon with kindergartners and perhaps taking their preschoolers with them each day.

Having Garland put on hold for a while may have given the bull in a china shop mentality which the BoE seemed to rush into and give them time to reconsider some of the options for both Greendell and Ventura as well as just Garland.


Like this comment
Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm

And meanwhile the kids suffer because the board can't decide what they want to do with the school sites. Not a good alternative when it comes to my children's education. We're happy at Walter Hays. It's a fabulous school with unbelievable resources for my kids. Still, if class sizes keep increasing, I'm not happy with that trade-off.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Erin, agreed.


Like this comment
Posted by Perspective
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 27, 2010 at 7:22 pm

glad to see nobody rising to take the bait of the sacred canard "everything would be fixed if only we got rid of Prop 13" ...

Every time this comes up, we repeat the same old numbers that show how much more we spend per student now than before Prop 13, and how overturning Prop 13 would cause housing prices to plummet, resulting in even less tax revenue than now. Pacific Research Institute is an excellent resource on this.

Just keep repeating to yourself the following maxim: Increasing tax rates decreases tax revenue. Counter intuitive on the surface, counter "emotional", but absolutely proven repeatedly.


Like this comment
Posted by Grandma
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2010 at 8:21 am

"the kids suffer because the board can't decide what they want to do with the school sites." No, the kids don't suffer they're perfectly happy, it's the parents who suffer!!!


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2010 at 9:11 am

Grandma

Not so sure I agree with you.

Kids may not be suffering because they don't know any better, but there are times that they may see how they are being treated differently.

Their best friends from school live the other side of town and they don't know the kids down the street because they go to different schools. The parents may try to get the kids together, but it doesn't really work as kids don't have much in common going to different schools. Kids may want to ride their bikes to school like their friends, but parents say no, it is too far, too many busy roads to cross, etc. When it comes to middle school, all the school friends go to one school and they have to go to another because of where they live. Some of the portables are old and leak, while others are newer and have air conditioning. Kids know that some of the classrooms are better than others (just like they know which teachers they want to have). The school play, or class president, or places on the football team, remain the same size even though the student body increases in size, which makes it harder odds for any particular child to take part. Yes new sports can be introduced (lacrosse), but being on the lacrosse team does not have the same glamor appeal as the football team, and if you have been crazy about baseball all your life then it is hard to change sports to something new. The lunch lines get longer and the shady/cool/places to eat or hangout get smaller. Schools may stagger lunchtime, or rotate the play structures so only a grade a day can play on them. When it comes to orchestra recitals, there is only space for two family members per child, so Grandma can't come if both Mom and Dad are. The principal only knows the names of the kids with problems (unless it is Mr.Goddard) and can't match a kid with the parent, or even a sibling. And on it goes.

I agree that none of these obstacles are unsurmountable, but they do happen and they feel like the end of the world to a kid experiencing them.


Like this comment
Posted by No surprises
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2010 at 11:33 am

Where was everyone when the city council kept approving new housing developments? of course they bring in more children than the schools can handle.

It will happen again along the train tracks, the city is planning for it,
and when Stanford brings in thousands of new people.
Might be a good idea to pay attention, it hasn't stopped.


Like this comment
Posted by Even more confused
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 31, 2010 at 12:46 am

What is Tinsley and why do we have it in PA? I noticed that each class has two or three students from EPA and they are bussed so I assumed it had something to do with segregation laws from the fifties. Now I am even more confused after reading this blog. Are there schools in EPA? It does seem that EPA kids only play with each other, I never see their parents, and often their information is not listed in the school directory. When we invited the entire class to my child's birthday party, I had no way of sending invitations to the two EPA kids. I would like to find a way to include these children and families in our community, they seem to self segregate. I am not sure who is benefiting from this arrangement?


Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2010 at 1:08 am

Tinsley students have to take an exam to qualify to attend PAUSD schools. Students must be minorities, non-Caucasian, non-Asian.


From PAUSD: Web Link

Each year, 60 students from Ravenswood School District are assigned to kindergarten, first, or second grade classrooms in PAUSD. Terms of the settlement specify that only new students entering kindergarten, first, or second grade are eligible to enter the program. If VTP students transfer out of our District, PAUSD may be assigned more than 60 students per year. For example, PAUSD was assigned 77 VTP students for the 2002-03 school year because 17 VTP students transferred out of PAUSD during 2001-02.

Currently there are about 560 VTP students from kindergarten through grade twelve enrolled in our District. As PAUSD students, they receive full District services and are provided bus transportation to and from school.

From: Web Link

The case began in 1976 when the Midpeninsula Task Force for Integrated Education, representing
disgruntled Ravenswood parents, claimed that their kids were not receiving an equal education to that of
white students across Highway 101. They filed a lawsuit alleging that unconstitutional segregation existed in
all the school districts from Palo Alto to San Carlos. After eight years in court, the case gained momentum in
1984 when California high courts ruled that the inter-district conditions violated the State Constitution. At
this point, administrators within PAUSD and the other cities decided to seek a compromise through the
court of San Mateo County Superior Court Judge William Lanam. Rather than attempting to bus kids all
over the Peninsula, the parties agreed to begin what became known as the Voluntary Transfer Program
(VTP). Starting in the 1987 school year, Palo Alto agreed to take 60 kindergarteners and first-graders
whose parents wished to transfer them from the Ravenswood district. 7 other cities took varying numbers of
Ravenswood transfers and a new group of youngsters would be added each year.



Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The original hypothesis was flawed, and no one wanted to bell the cat for fear of being called racist. That fear still rules, as evidenced by the slander I have received through the years. Generations of "minorities" have been permanently damaged by having their victim status validated and by hours wasted in a bus seat instead of in a classroom. Rebuild Ravenswood/Tinsley and give East Palo Alto back its soul. Build it big enough so anyone who feels his experience is empty can find a place there.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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