San Carlos School District Enrollment Drops | Local News
Student enrollment has plummeted in the San Carlos School District this new school year, leaving officials to assume it was the victim of a statewide trend of pandemic-related restrictions on education in person pushing children out of the public system and out of the state.
“We are lower than we have been for a while,” spokeswoman Amber Farinha said at a board meeting on September 9. “COVID just put an end to everything we knew.”
District officials have struggled in recent years with declining enrollment, which many attributed to the rising cost of living locally. But before the pandemic struck, the district demographer predicted those numbers would stabilize with 2,970 students expected for the 2020-21 school year and 2,918 for the 2021-22 session.
As of August 26, the district was below its planned 2021-2022 enrollment of nearly 300 students with 2,626 preschool through eighth students enrolled on the district’s eight campuses. Enrollment was also down by 245 students from last year’s California Basic Educational Data System enrollments conducted each year on Oct. 7.
State-mandated school closures during the pandemic have been identified as the reason the district and others across the state experienced a drop in enrollment, Farinha said, noting that school districts in the Bay Area, including those in San Mateo County, lost 3% of students.
Statewide registrations are expected to drop already within the decade, Farinha said. More than 160,000 students have been lost during the pandemic, the biggest drop in student numbers in 20 years, she said.
“It wasn’t just San Carlos. It was everywhere, ”Farinha said.
In the SCSD, student losses were recorded among six of the district’s 10 grade levels, with fourth grade enrollments falling the most to 55 students.
Student exit surveys conducted for the 433 students who left the district in the 2020-21 school year showed that 29% of students, or 126 children, left to attend private schools that largely offered in-person education during the pandemic. Another 125 students left the city, 66 the state and 37 the country.
About 80 students who left the San Carlos Charter Learning Center moved to an unknown area of the state, switched to home schooling, or left no reason or other reason.
Only 18 of the 433 students returned, Farinha said, signaling uncertainty over how many more will return. Data has not been collected on why the families left, a regret from Farinha, but the district is working to collect this information and create new surveys for future departures.
Enrollment counts are critical to inform staffing levels, short and long term facility planning, grant funding, program and service planning, technology and educational materials, and targeted services for specific students, said Farinha.
But district funding is ultimately decided by average daily attendance, a number that fluctuates less across the district. Superintendent Jennifer Frentress stressed the importance of getting children to attend class regularly after “lax” practices and attendance measures when studying at home.
“You can’t just not show up for days, so we have to start talking about the impact,” Frentress said.
It is still unclear what long-term effects the pandemic will have on student enrollment. Farinha said the district will look at staffing levels and how each school site has been affected while keeping an eye on enrollment trends.
The district demographer shared hope that future residential development could increase the number of schoolchildren in the city, Farinha said.
“We just don’t know what that will look like in the years to come,” Farinha said. “[We’re] hoping we can get some of these kids back for next year.
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