The numbers game
The school board got a report Tuesday night on this year’s enrollment numbers, and so far, I guess it’s so good: The district has fewer kids enrolled than it did at the beginning of last year, but more than district officials expected.
As of Friday, Alameda Unified had 9,441 kids enrolled, 125 more than the district projected but 120 less than the district had at this time last year.
Student Services Director Jeff Knoth said that kindergarten classes are actually overenrolled on the Island’s West End and underenrolled in the East End. He said kindergarten classes at Ruby Bridges, Washington, Lum and Franklin are over capacity while Otis, Bay Farm and Edison’s classes have space available.
He said the district’s first grade classes are universally full but that Alameda Unified has space in second and third grades. Fourth and fifth grades are trickier because the classes can have 32 students, but the district’s contract with its teacher requires that the average class size in those grades be 29.
Projections for the district’s middle and high schools were fairly on-target, Knoth said, with the district seeing 25 more students than expected at Wood Middle School and 25 less at Chipman Middle School. Most of the extra students – 92 – are at Alameda Unified’s elementary schools.
Knoth declined to give specific numbers for each elementary school, saying those numbers are fluid because school has just started. The district has until the 20th day of school to balance its class sizes so they meet the mandates of the district’s contract with its teachers. The state’s class size reduction program mandates certain maximum class sizes – 20 students in grades K-3 and 32 for grades 4-5 – in order for the district to receive full program funding.
Knoth said parents in overcapacity classes got a letter asking for volunteers to attend school elsewhere, and that if the enrollment isn’t balanced by today, involuntary transfers to other schools will follow. Students who are here from other cities will be moved first, and students living in the attendance zone for the school, last.
He said the district hopes to have decisions made on where the overflow of elementary students will go to school this year by Friday. District leaders will also have to decide whether to hire additional teachers to handle some of the overflow, at a cost Superintendent Kirsten Vital put at about $100,000 per teacher. The district could also create more combination classes to handle the overflow.
The district had based its enrollment projections in part on the opening of the new Nea Community Learning Center charter school, whose leaders aimed to enroll roughly 300 students for this fall. But Knoth said the economy was a wild card that made it difficult to predict how many kids the district would get.
School Board Trustee Nielsen Tam said he’s encouraged by the numbers. “With Nea starting, we projected we would have less students in the West End,” he said.
Still, he wanted to know how Knoth would handle the overflow, citing one fourth grade class at Washington Elementary that has 41 students. Knoth said families in that class have been offered spots at nearby Haight Elementary.
In other news, the School Board solidified its strategy for moving forward on a master plan for the district that will lay out the district’s direction over the next several years. The district – with the public’s help – will consider a number of biggees, including restructuring its middle and high schools (read: changing the grade levels in the schools) and creating a K-5 magnet, increasing class sizes, shortening the school year and more.
Bi-weekly community workshops will begin this coming Tuesday, September 15 (and the district is still looking for volunteers to set up public meetings to gather input on what should be done).
Oh, and the board unanimously approved a settlement agreement with yacht merchant John Beery, who filed one of two lawsuits against the district to protest the Measure H parcel tax. Superintendent Vital said she needs to set up a committee of 10 to 12 people to put together a new tax that will supercede both of the district’s existing, temporary taxes. Forms are to be available online and in her office. The group needs to be put together by October 20.
The board could vote on a new parcel tax on February 28, 2010 for a June 2010 ballot.