The Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education on Jan. 26 decided not to move forward with closing a school. But with enrollment continuing to spiral down, the possibility of shutting down another campus will continue to hang over the district.
Enrollment in GUSD stands at about 10,450, a little more than 1,000 less than 2016-17, according to demographers DecisionInsite/PowerSchool.
The projected numbers appear more grim in the future: enrollment could dip below 9,000 by the next decade, estimates show.
Local schools expected to be hit the hardest include Rucker Elementary School, with a nearly 40% drop in five years, and Rod Kelley Elementary School, with a quarter decline.
Superintendent Deborah Flores recommended the board revisit discussions around school closures annually, due to declining birth rates. According to data from California Health and Human Services, the birth count in the 95020 zip code rebounded from 767 in 2020 to 805 in 2021, but it’s still well below the 1,026 in 2006.
“It’s something that’s not going to go away, unless all the 20- and 30-somethings in our country start having children,” Flores said.
Chief Business Officer Alvaro Meza said younger adults already saddled with debt and forced to return home to live with their parents are faced with the increased cost of living and high interest rates, delaying their decision to have children.
While saying it is a “smart” move, Meza said it has major financial consequences for the district.
The school district relies on funding through the state using formulas based on attendance. A loss of 171 students would result in $2 million less in revenue, according to Meza.
Antonio Del Buono Elementary School was the last school to close in the district, shutting down at the end of the 2019-20 academic year due to declining enrollment.
Students transferred to either Luigi Aprea or Rucker elementary schools following the closure. But even then, Flores said enrollment at those schools didn’t increase as much as district officials had anticipated.
If the board decided to close a school in the future, the process would take at least a year-and-a-half before the doors are shut, she noted.