The picture that Enrollment Projection Consultants paints is "bleak," Partner Tom Williams wrote in a report that the school board was set to discuss on Thursday evening (March 28), after the Weekly's press deadline.
He estimates Ravenswood will lose 583 students by 2021. In sharp contrast, the district had estimated in January that it would lose 136 students over the next three years.
While virtually all districts in the region are losing students, Ravenswood's 27 percent enrollment decline is "far greater" than what his organization is forecasting for the other 23 districts it works within San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. The decrease will happen in elementary and middle school grade levels and in every elementary attendance area of the district, according to Williams' report.
In five years, Ravenswood will be down to just 1,747 students, Williams estimated — a sharp contrast to the 3,547 students enrolled in 2012. Even without charter schools, Ravenswood's regular enrollment fell by 1,161, or 33 percent, from 2012 to 2018 — including a loss of 307 students last year.
Ravenswood's regular enrollment in the last year, not counting those of the charters, dropped by 11 percent, according to the report. Meanwhile, Redwood City School District's enrollment declined by 3 percent, Menlo Park City School District's by 1 percent, Las Lomitas Elementary School District's by 6 percent and Portola Valley Elementary School District's by 6 percent.
Ravenswood's kindergarten enrollment took a major hit in the 2017-18 school year, when Kipp opened and The Primary School added its first kindergarten class. The combined effect was that Ravenswood's kindergarten enrollment over the last two years dropped from below 400 to 300 students and then to about 200 students. Kipp, which opened with kindergarten, first and sixth grades, also caused a much larger net loss in the number of students graduating from fifth to sixth grade, the report states.
Most Kipp students live within the district and all Primary School students do, so "the majority of both of those schools' students probably otherwise would have been enrolled in the district's regular schools," Williams wrote. These trends are expected to continue until Kipp and The Primary School are fully enrolled.
The report also underscores the region's housing crisis. East Palo Alto families are leaving the area due to unaffordability and "further decline will occur if a larger-than-projected portion of the students, in net, who are in temporary housing or are living in vehicles need to leave the district before 2023," Williams wrote.
There are some local housing developments on the horizon that could help stabilize Ravenswood's enrollment, but the number of units or potential students that could be generated by those projects remains unclear.
Williams highlighted three positive findings in his report. Ravenswood saw small rebounds this year in the number of students who live in what's defined as "relatively modest" single-family detached homes. The birth counts in the San Mateo County portion of the 94303 ZIP code also went up rather than declined in 2018. Lastly, a large number of potential units in below-market-rate developments in the area could help bring more students to the district and also provide stable housing for students who live in temporary housing or are sleeping in cars or RVs, Williams wrote.
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