The Oakland school district is closing five elementary schools next year. Two of its other schools might be converted into independently run charters, taking 800 children with them. And at least one — quite possibly, two — brand new charter schools open next fall, with plans to admit more than 600 students, combined.
But OUSD’s leaders aren’t bracing for a big enrollment drop. They predict the school system’s enrollment will hold firm in September — and even grow slightly (by 125 students, to 38,166).
Will the numbers bear out? They didn’t this fall. Enrollment in the city’s district-run schools, though flat, came in 300 students shy of projections, creating a $1.6 million budget gap that needed to be closed immediately.
2012 projections, explained: At a public school board meeting on Monday, Superintendent Tony Smith and Deputy Superintendent Vernon Hal projected that no more than 5 to 10 percent of children at closed schools will leave the district (rather than “up to 20 percent,” the figure cited earlier this fall based on national trends), because of the personal attention their families have received in the transition to a new school.
Hal also said district staff have lifted enrollment caps on some of the more sought-after schools — caps put in place, he said, for the benefit of under-enrolled schools. With those seats freed up, he said, more students are likely to enroll in the district. (I don’t recall this enrollment-capping practice being discussed publicly — do you? School board member Chris Dobbins seemed unaware of it, based on the questions he asked last night.)
Lastly, Hal said, proposed new grade configurations (k-8 and 6-12) at a number of schools will prevent as many OUSD students from leaving the district after elementary school.
After hearing the rationale, school board member David Kakishiba urged the staff to proceed with caution.
“My first take on the enrollment assumptions is that it is very optimistic,” Kakishiba said. “That’s how I read it. I would ask my colleagues for us to study that some more.”
Do you agree?
Here’s a breakdown of the charters that could or will open in 2012, with their projected enrollments. Let me know if I missed any. (The charter conversion petition for Lazear Elementary was pulled from the agenda last week.)
- Urban Montessori, whose charter appeal was approved by the Alameda County Board of Education in October, expects to enroll 250 children in 2012.
- 100 Black Men of the Bay Area Community School — a new charter which is awaiting a decision but appears to have strong support from the OUSD board — would start out with 375.
- ASCEND, a k-8 school that might become an independently-run charter (a change which requires approval by the OUSD board or the county or state boards of education), had 436 students on the 20th day of school.
- Learning Without Limits, the other Oakland school seeking a charter conversion, had 377 students in September.
Are you aware of many families who are now considering OUSD because of grade-configuration changes or other reasons? What about families from Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe?