A demographer's report shows Pleasanton Unified School District enrollment numbers will provide little relief for the high schools as only a nominal decline is expected in coming years.
Tom Williams, president of Enrollment Projection Consultants, presented data to the school board Monday showing "relatively stable" enrollment over the next five years. In 2012, he predicted a total of 25 fewer students in the district, with 91 additional students in elementary school, 79 fewer in middle school and 37 fewer in high school.
He also added that the senior class is the largest ever for the district but said he doesn't believe the large growth seen in recent years will continue over the next 10 years.
John Casey, district superintendent, said that he was a little surprised by the numbers.
"It was a smaller decrease [than I thought at the high school," he said. "I thought it would go down more than what the demographer predicted. On the other hand, the high schools are not going to increase. The elementary numbers are higher than I thought they would be. The need for Neal Elementary School continues to exist."
The findings also showed that there may not be merit to the bubble theory, where enrollment increases and then bursts, showing a dramatic decrease.
"I hope we can get past the bubble theory and say things as they are now," School board trustee Steve Brozosky said. "Student enrollment is flat for at least five years and beyond that it is difficult to predict since those kindergarteners are not even born yet."
Julie Testa, a parent and longtime advocate for a third high school, said the bubble theory was something she and others have tried to dispel. Previously she felt there was an impression of a dramatic decrease in enrollment.
"They thought there would be a temporary overcrowding," she said. "It's absolutely not the case. It's a zero decrease by that bubble and in all probability could be an increase."
In the discussion of overcrowded high schools, community members and parents spoke before the board. Some were in favor of building another high school while others said they didn't want to go into debt and have other programs suffer.
Paula Plunk, who several years ago was outspoken against a new high school said she has since changed her stance after her son was "lost" in the system.
"You have chosen to have 2,000 students at a school when there should be 1,000 or 1,500," she told the board. "It makes a huge difference. It's not about 'Surviving 101.'"
School board members said a new school would be too costly, especially considering the current high school master plan is underfunded.
In addition to those who spoke at the meeting, Brozosky said he received emails from parents who are concerned with the overcrowding. The emails basically stated that being a "rich community," Pleasanton should not have schools as crowded as they are now.
"I thought we had a good discussion about a possible 'annex' school which has some special classes/programs but where the students would still be enrolled in the comprehensive schools," Brozosky said. "Building a small, flexible campus would allow us to add some vocational/career tech possibilities and could give the feeling of a small campus for some. These thoughts are in the early stages, but worth looking into."
While she will continue to keep an open ear on the subject, Testa said she doesn't feel a need to personally pursue the issue. She wrote on the Weekly's online Town Square forum that as a parent, the outcome of Monday's meeting was unfortunate, but as a taxpayer, it was great.
"They have made a decision to house as many students as possible at the existing sites to concentrate our students' ADA and facilities dollars," she wrote. "This makes the maximum amount of dollars available for salary, program and facilities needs. Permanent overcrowding is the price our kids will pay for that concentration of dollars."
High school master plan approved
The board also decided to approve the high school master plan projects, involving gyms, fitness rooms and lobbies. In order to cuts costs, they decided to reduce the square footage of the lobbies. They were also able to schedule portions of the multi-phase projects at the same time to increase efficiency.