So Many Kids, Not Enough Space

(Updated to include interview with Superintendent) A School Board committee with a yawn-of-a-name is in charge of one of the city’s most challenging issues:  what to do about increased enrollment in K-8 schools.

While the question of a new school for San Carlos is on the agenda for Tuesday’s 2+2 Joint City/School Committee meeting, the issue is still preliminary.

“It’s not far along,” explained School Board trustee Carrie Du Bois, adding that the Enrollment & Capacity Committee still needs to do more work before taking its findings to the full School Board level.

The committee is made up of teachers, parents, community members and Superintendent Craig Baker.   The preliminary conversation with the City includes finding out if land is available and, if so, where and, of course, a chat about money.

Superintendent Craig Baker says enrollment keeps trending upward and is considered a critical issue.  “We’re full,” said Baker, adding that instead of the 300 children expected to enroll in kindergarten this Fall, the number is 360.  That’s expected to happen in the years ahead, too.

Baker says no matter how often the School District explores other options, it keeps circling back to the basic problem.  “We don’t have the physical space capacity,” for all the students in San Carlos.

As for a new school, Baker said, “nothing is imminent but we need to be prepared.”

On his blog, School Board trustee Seth Rosenblatt writes, “..we will have over 3,200 students next year in a set of campuses designed to hold some 2,600 students.”

Speaking as an individual and not representing the School Board, Du Bois says she hopes there’s another solution because enrollment numbers grow and shrink over time, but building a new school is so expensive:  an estimated $22-26 million plus ongoing operating costs.

“In an ideal world, we’d build a new school,” said Rosenblatt, who last week announced he’s running for re-election.    “The traditional way (of funding a new school) is floating a bond measure and asking voters…would you pay more to fund X million…so we don’t take that lightly,” he explained.

Parents of school age children have had to contend with wait lists, a change in school boundaries to better balance the schools and larger class sizes, which Rosenblatt says to some degree has masked the problem of the spike in enrollment.  “We need more space today even with the current lot of students, not even taking into consideration what enrollment may be in 5 to 10 years,” he said.

So what’s behind San Carlos’ school enrollment inflation?

Also a veteran realtor, Du Bois says her theory – besides the bubble of young children making its way through the school pipeline – is that San Carlos is getting so many new families coming from San Francisco, parents who fled the schools there in search of a better education for their kids.

Rosenblatt agrees.  “In a way, we’ve become a victim of our own success,” he said, adding that the district’s solid test scores have made San Carlos a magnet for young families from other cities.  The problem, he added, is “it’s not like we had a lot of space to begin with.”

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Filed Under: Column 1San Carlos Schools

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