With a nervous eye on crowded classrooms, the Palo Alto Board of Education formally has asked the City Council to keep school "capacity challenges" in mind when the city considers long-range housing plans for Palo Alto.
In a letter to the council signed last week by all five of its members, the school board noted that this fall's 2.95 percent enrollment increase "is more than previous years, and represents a continued, steady, average 2.4 percent annual increase we have seen in the district over the past 20 years.
"This trend shows no sign of abating and has been present in virtually every economic climate," the letter said.
Though long a topic of informal chatter and behind-the-scenes staff discussion, the effect of new housing on school enrollment increasingly is showing up on official agendas. It has been a prime topic in the two most recent monthly meetings of the City-School Liaison Committee.
At the Oct. 27 meeting, city and school officials both noted that recent "housing yields" -- the number of school enrollees generated by each unit of new housing -- have been higher than original demographic projections.
"The condos are turning out more kids than originally projected by (demographers) Lapkoff & Gobalet," School Board Member Camille Townsend said.
Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie said the yield increase is "consistent with our own findings. The actual findings are higher than the projections," Emslie said.
"Within the last couple of years, Lapkoff & Gobalet increased their student-yield projections because of that historical overage," school board member Dana Tom observed.
Board members stressed they are not trying to tell council members what to do or to be in any way "prescriptive," but ask that the city keep the schools in mind as they consider new housing proposals.