In a "most unusual year" for Palo Alto school demographics, kindergarten enrollments this fall were "surprisingly high," substantially exceeding local birth data from five years ago, demographers said.
But in projections to be presented to the Board of Education tonight (Dec. 14), consultants Shelley Lapkoff and Jeanne Gobalet predict just one more year of elementary enrollment growth, with "steady middle and high-school enrollment increases."
The predicted leveling off of elementary growth is partly attributable to new legislation, to be phased in starting in fall of 2012, which will temporarily reduce the size of kindergarten classes. It requires that kids turn 5 by Sept. 1, rather than the current Dec. 2 cutoff.
But the demographers also offer an "alternative forecast" –- resulting in higher numbers -- based on the "unusual" pattern observed this year. The pattern is that kindergarten enrollment exceeded local birth data from 2005 by margins "far above any historical value for the district."
In the alternative scenario, district-wide enrollment would be 13,576 in 2015, as opposed to the 12,813 projected under the "medium forecast."
District-wide enrollment, at 12,024 this fall, has been on a steady upward trajectory since a post-Baby Boom nadir in 1989.
At its historic high in 1968 – when Palo Alto had three high schools and more than 20 elementary schools -- enrollment reached 15,575.
Some of the unexpectedly high kindergarten and first-grade head count this fall came not from new housing developments but from families occupying older Palo Alto homes, either as renters or buyers, Lapkoff and Gobalet said.
As of this fall, 606 Palo Alto students came from housing constructed in the past 10 years. When new housing still in the pipeline is considered, 1,051 students will be coming from new housing by 2014 and 1,452 by the fall of 2020.
The public session of tonight's school board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.