As of first week, Berkeley school district's enrollment down by nearly 100 students

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SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

Berkeley Unified School District’s first week enrollment fell lower than projected this year, short of last year’s total by nearly 100 students.

About 275 students below the district’s projected enrollment of 9,666, the district is now reevaluating its budget information.

“The budget is built on predictions.  Our predictions were high. We believed we would have more growth than we did,” said Neil Smith, assistant superintendent for the district.

First, seventh and 11th grades account for two-thirds of the drop, according to Smith. He said it is hard to speculate why enrollment dropped.

“We do contact the family to try to understand what is going on,” Smith said.

A major factor in determining the amount of monetary support a school receives from the state is attendance, not enrollment, he said.

“If attendance goes up while enrollment goes down, (enrollment) could have no impact,” Smith said.

Smith said the state guarantees prior year funding for districts with declining enrollment, meaning the district should receive the amount of support they did last school year.

Patricia Saddler, principal of Longfellow Magnet Middle School, said the enrollment drop could be because of the economic instability California faces.

“Some families have chosen to move out of the Bay Area in general and to seek employment and more affordable housing elsewhere,” Saddler said.

However, Longfellow has not been affected by the drop.

“As far as I know, Longfellow is the only school that increased in enrollment,” Saddler said.

She added that the school created a new class to accommodate the approximately 30 new students.

The enrollment drop is believed to be a non-issue by some. “I don’t think enrollment dropped enough to make a difference,” Saddler said.  “Three kids, five kids down — doesn’t make that significant of a difference.”

“It’s a small variation,” Smith agreed.

Smith said the Revolutionary Education and Learning Movement, REALM, middle and high schools that opened for the first time this fall have not influenced this decrease.  REALM currently has over 200 students, but can grow to serve up to 300 students at the middle school level and up to 400 students at the high school level.  The charter school accepts students from both the Berkeley Unified School District as well as those from outside the district.

“(Enrollment in the district) has been increasing slightly each year, but not significantly,” Smith said.

The 91 student drop since last year is an exception, and a revenue adjustment will follow in the coming months.

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SEPTEMBER 15, 2011