District enrollment expected to increase

A group of students get on a bus as school lets out at Gilroy

Gilroy
– At a time when many California school districts are facing
declining enrollment, the outlook for Gilroy appears positive.
Next year, enrollment in the district is projected to increase
by about 130 for a total of 9,970 students. In three years, it will
increase by more than 500 students, and in five years more than
1,000 students.
Gilroy – At a time when many California school districts are facing declining enrollment, the outlook for Gilroy appears positive.

Next year, enrollment in the district is projected to increase by about 130 for a total of 9,970 students. In three years, it will increase by more than 500 students, and in five years more than 1,000 students.

The largest increase for next year is projected in the three middle schools, with a growth of 84 students. The projected rise for Gilroy’s elementary schools next year is 54 students, and Gilroy High School is expected to see only a slight increase.

Three years from now, elementary schools will have about 360 more students than the current enrollment. The middle school and the high school populations each will see about 200 more students.

State funding for public school districts is based on the number of students in attendance each day over the course of the year. Significant enrollment declines can devastate districts’ financial health, but increased enrollment means there’s a greater chance more students will be in class, which translates into more funding.

“We’re delighted,” said Steve Brinkman, the district’s superintendent of administrative services. “When you look at the next few years … it’s phenomenal. So many school districts are suffering in enrollment right now. This puts us in a situation where we can get healthy.”

Currently, GUSD receives about $4,600 per student from the state. The amount changes from year to year, depending on the prior year’s attendance reports and the state’s budget.

The enrollment projections are prepared by a consulting firm out of San Mateo that specializes in school district enrollment. The estimations are based on where students live, as that’s how the district determines its attendance area boundaries.

The expected increase, although positive, also presents a challenge in where the incoming students will be housed. District officials remain optimistic that new facilities either under construction or being planned – such as Eliot and Las Animas elementary schools – will help alleviate the influx.

Eliot, slated to open for the coming school year, will hold 600 students, 200 more than the old Eliot. Due to delays in land acquisition, time is tight to construct the replacement school for Las Animas, but the district is aiming to open kindergarten through second grade for the 2006-07 school year.

Major revisions to the district’s attendance area boundaries are planned for 2006 to help make room for incoming students. The revisions only will affect kindergartners and students new to the district.

As the committee members who determine those boundaries finalize plans later this year, they also will discuss how high school students will be split between GHS and the new Christopher High School, slated to open in 2010.

One of the district’s more immediate concerns is Luigi Aprea Elementary School. About 760 students attend the school, but ideal enrollment is somewhere between 700 and 725, said Superintendent Edwin Diaz.

A housing development south of Sunrise Drive near Luigi Aprea is planned to be built out over the next few years. Under the current boundaries, those students would attend Luigi Aprea, and students north of Sunrise would continue to attend Rucker Elementary School. The district is considering redrawing the attendance boundary before 2006 so all students in that area would attend Rucker.

The enrollment projections are useful to the district for a number of reasons, including planning the budget and determining attendance boundaries. The district has used the same consulting firm for five years, and last year’s projections were off by only about 12 students, Diaz said.

“But that doesn’t mean we’re completely accurate in which schools the increases occur,” he said. “It’s not an exact science trying to predict where the enrollment occurs. Sometimes you’ll have the capacity increase at one school, but enrollment goes up somewhere else.”

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