School enrollment rose for the 11th consecutive year, causing
staff to juggle classes, hire teachers and split families among
Gilroy – School enrollment rose for the 11th consecutive year, causing staff to juggle classes, hire teachers and split families among different schools.
The Gilroy Unified School District has 198 more students this year than last, for a total of 10,208 students.
The 2 percent student growth – on par with recent years and in line with district predictions – has pushed the district to hire more educational staff and further stretch its facilities.
While district staff is used to the growth and anticipated it, they did not expect the turnover they saw in the first few weeks of after school started Aug. 23. Students in one grade or school left to other districts while new students came to Gilroy and enrolled, but not necessarily in the same grade or school.
“What we’re finding is that the numbers are changing a little more at the beginning of the year,” said Roger Cornia, who handles district enrollment. “People are a little more mobile.”
District staff speculate that a volatile housing market has caused higher turnover in Gilroy residents, which means more people moving in as more people move out.
The students of these transitioning families consequently enroll into or transfer out of the district.
This turnover has created challenges at elementary schools, where kindergarten classes are limited to a 20-to-1 teacher-to-student ratio unless the district wants to sacrifice state funding. Many schools had classes at the limit when the school year began, Cornia said. New students sometimes were forced to enroll at schools outside their neighborhood, he said.
However, this was not the case in upper grades, where class size is more flexible under state rules, Cornia said. This created problems for parents that had two students enrolled for elementary school.
“So that parent can’t have two kids at the same school,” he said. “Still, I’d rather move one student than break down a whole class and move nine or 10 of them” to create a new kindergarten section.
The turnover also has caused some shuffling at Gilroy High School, where small classes, such as Advanced Placement courses, and the hiring of subject-specific teachers, depend heavily on student demand, Cornia said.
“Did those fit just exactly?” he asked. “They never do.”
The increased enrollment also spurred the district to add portable classrooms at Brownell and Ascencion Solorsano middle schools and Rucker Elementary School, assistant superintendent of business services said in August.
The enrollment increase will make a difference in funding as the state gives money to districts based on how many students show up to school on average. After hovering around 10,000 students last year, this year the district can expect to get funding commensurate with being a five-figure district, Cornia said.
“We are definitely over a 10,000-student district now,” he said.