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Pandemic-induced enrollment plunge persists for second year at local public schools

Original post made on Nov 19, 2021

Enrollment is down, but not as significantly as during the 2020-21 school year, data shows.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 19, 2021, 6:51 AM

Comments (8)

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2021 at 5:33 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

"...the number of young people on the Midpeninsula is shrinking, even as the overall population grows."

This was SO obviously going to happen. All this developer-supported clamoring for more "housing" in this arid, overcrowded region on the false premise that just building will make things affordable has only pushed families (and people of color) out, and destroyed quality of life that made families willing to sacrifice to stay here in the past.

Even the idea that making "affordable" microspaces will make families return or not leave is flawed; surveys of millenials show a majority want single-family homes, too. People leave the area to find a better quality of life they can afford, people have forever commuted long distances to find a better QUALITY OF LIFE they can afford here; affordable microspaces (nevermind the pie-in-the-sky economic arguments) aren't it.

We do not benefit from destroying what's good here to become a dormitory monoculture for just-out young people in the tech industry whose desires, lack of community engagement & high relative salaries negatively impact everyone else already living here (and their companies who do not pay local taxes) and who will move on when they want a reasonable quality of life & families, too. (And btw, an MIT study found the AVERAGE age of successful startup founder is 45.)

Reductions in school enrollments were easy to see coming a mile away. In the past, economic booms filled our schools and people were willing to sacrifice to stay here for the schools. But our schools have not kept up with the times, esp in the pandemic.

If our district had the smarts to develop a real hybrid independent study program that took the best of flexibility/customization for students, distance learning where desired/necessary AND careful IN-PERSON social and teacher connections/after school/sports/mentorship, PAUSD would not have lost so many students. They've been pushing out the "undesirables' for so long; now they got their wish.


Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2021 at 6:31 pm

S. Underwood is a registered user.

Private enrollments aren't down. They're up.

Ergo, PAUSD can't place the blame for this latest turn on the pandemic or regional demographic shifts, both of which apply to privates equally. [In fact, privates got substantially LESS outside support in response to the pandemic.]

PAUSD is now a fraction of the quality and brilliance it once was. The senior admin and the Board have been driving us this way for some time. The Weekly minimizes, in my opinion, because it's tough to advertise homes from $9,9 and $3,2 million (literally the ads in my side bar as I type this) next to a constant stream of articles about how the school district is a disaster... assaults, diminished academics, math discrimination, fleeing families, and so on...


Posted by RDR
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2021 at 3:10 pm

RDR is a registered user.

The school age population decline is NATIONWIDE. It's very evident across the state of California. Mercury News article the other day reported statewide drop off of 250,000 students over the past 5 years, and a projection of a continued drop off of 500,000 more over the next 10 years.

So it's not the pandemic mainly, and not the quality of the schools.


Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Nov 20, 2021 at 10:52 pm

chris is a registered user.

Simitian's attempt to extort a school from Stanford for PAUSD was totally unfounded.


Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 22, 2021 at 6:18 am

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

Just wait until the Millennials start having children, then there will be a huge uptick in population. Millennials having babies is just around the corner. That demographic group is larger than the Boomers.

Don't understand why Palo Alto High School is having classrooms of 30 kids in there. Didn't the parcel tax get approved? Thought small classroom sizes were from the parcel tax. Why are there 30 kids per classroom?


Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 22, 2021 at 6:30 am

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

Statistics is a funny thing. Take for instance reading the numbers of percentage drop of PAUSD and Los Altos Schools. PAUSD is almost 3x the size of Los Altos, so 100 students leaving PAUSD versus Los Altos Schools will have a smaller percentage drop in PAUSD compared to Los Altos. It's quite unfair to compare the 2 schools as a percentage.

Also unfair that Bullis Charter School is not included in the Los Altos School given Bullis is part of Los Altos School District. That also skews Los Altos numbers, statistically speaking to be unfavorable for Los Altos.

Overall PAUSD should have the lowest percentage drop given it's the largest district in the all the schools listed. What would have been more comparable is if PAUSD was compared to Los Altos + Bullis + MVLA (combined). Instead, we see the numbers of PAUSD compared to everyone else and reading just the percentage unenrolled numbers, would obviously give lower percentages for PAUSD, which would belie the truth of the matter, which is PAUSD parents were very upset PAUSD could not keep up with the surrounding neighboring district schools in 2020 when the pandemic closed down the schools.

PAUSD took so much longer than their neighboring schools to get going, that PAUSD parents were fuming angry. While PAUSD parents begged Don Austin for online learning to begin, Los Altos parents were demanding synchronous online teaching replace their asynchronous online teaching.

Let's not compare apples to oranges with percentage numbers and assume PAUSD came out better as a leader. They did not. Absolutely they did not. They were followers in the pandemic.


Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 22, 2021 at 11:24 am

Samuel L is a registered user.

PAUSD would rather have fewer students. They still get the property tax dollars. They'll always find a reason to keep as many teachers as possible and definitely all the administrators. They will always find a reason for declining enrollment, or anything that might put them in a negative light. As long as they can keep the PR machine running so that property values continue to grow, they don't really care about enrollment numbers. Having said that, the more students they can cram into a school, the more money they save and can spend on administrators. But, their goal is not efficiency.


Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2021 at 9:36 am

Citizen is a registered user.

Private school enrollments are up but the article doesn’t say they absorbed the decline. All it tells you is private schools did something some people who left publics wanted.

It doesn’t tell you anything about how many, where, and why the MAJORITY of people who left public schools went. Did they leave the area? Did they file PSAs and homeschool? The state doesn’t publish data on PSAs with <6 enrolled, but local districts have those numbers.

If private schools have 10% of students vs. public schools, +30% only accounts for 3% of public school losses, ie, if a public school has 1000 students and private has 100, and the public school loses 30% or 300, that’s not absorbed by +30% or 30 students at the private school. 90% who left are still unaccounted for.

That’s assuming increased APPLICATIONS (all the article discusses) to privates translate 100% to increased enrollment which we know isn’t so.

Where did families go?

A glaring reason is declining quality of life. This area has been ungodly expensive for decades, but we still had families. Yuppies arriving in the 80s who hated yards bought up all the $$$houses in Los Altos when they grew up. But more recent assaults on single family homes has meant any disruption (of many that density makes us vulnerable to) means people leave the area to get those homes.

The pandemic accelerated a trend caused by tech worker dormitization of local housing and attendant decimation of QoL in the false name of creating “affordability”. This works against families:
Web Link
Paraphrasing, SF Planning Dept report said the bldg boom there—mostly small apts—was unlikely to bring more families. For every 100 apts sold at market rates, the SF school district expects to enroll only ONE additional student.

Bottom line: Families want space and will leave to get it. The pandemic gave the push. How many? How many stayed but filed PSAs?


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