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Ravenswood enrollment decline worse than predicted

Consultant says district could have fewer than 1,800 students by 2023

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An enrollment consultant is projecting that the Ravenswood City School District will lose 27 percent of its 2,400 students over the next five years, a decline that is far sharper than the district itself has predicted.

The K-8 East Palo Alto district has already the region's "most severe" enrollment decline, according to the San Mateo-based Enrollment Projection Consultants, and is facing challenging years ahead. While skyrocketing housing costs and falling birth rates are the main culprits of enrollment decreases in school districts throughout Silicon Valley, the opening of a new charter school, Kipp Valiant Community Prep, and the private Primary School in East Palo Alto compounded those losses for Ravenswood.

The picture that Enrollment Projection Consultants paints is "bleak," Partner Tom Williams wrote in his report. He told the school board Thursday evening that in his 33 years of enrollment consulting, the recent declines in local school districts is "something I've never seen before."

He estimates Ravenswood will lose 583 students by 2021. In sharp contrast, the district had estimated in January that it would lose 136 students over the next three years.

While virtually all districts in the region are losing students, Ravenswood's 27 percent enrollment decline is "far greater" than what his organization is forecasting for the other 23 districts they work with in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. The decrease will happen in both elementary and middle school grade levels and in every elementary attendance area of the district, according to Williams' report.

In five years, Ravenswood will be down to just 1,747 students, Williams estimated -- a sharp contrast to the 3,547 students enrolled in 2012. Even without charter schools, Ravenswood's regular enrollment fell by 1,161, or 33 percent, from 2012 to 2018 — including a loss of 307 students in just the last year.

In the last year, Ravenswood's regular enrollment, not counting the charters, dropped by 11 percent, according to the report. The report provides the rates for nearby districts as points of comparison: Redwood City School District declined by 3 percent, Menlo Park City School District by 1 percent, Las Lomitas Elementary School District by 6 percent and Portola Valley Elementary School District by 6 percent.

Ravenswood's kindergarten enrollment took a major hit in the 2017-18 school year, when Kipp opened and The Primary School added its first kindergarten class. The combined effect was that Ravenswood's kindergarten enrollment dropped below 400 and then 300 students to about 200 students in the last two years. Kipp, which opened with kindergarten, first and sixth grades, also caused a much larger net loss in the number of students graduating from fifth to sixth grade, the report states.

The low kindergarten enrollment will continue, Williams said Thursday, estimating that there will be no kindergarten class significantly more than 200 students in the next five years.

Most Kipp students live within the district and all Primary School students do, so "the majority of both of those school's students probably otherwise would have been enrolled in the district's regular schools," Williams wrote. These trends are expected to continue until Kipp and The Primary School are fully enrolled.

The report also underscores the region's housing crisis. East Palo Alto families are leaving the area due to unaffordability and "further decline will occur if a larger-than-projected portion of the students, in net, who are in temporary housing or are living in vehicles need to leave the district before 2023," Williams wrote.

There are some local housing developments on the horizon that could help stabilize Ravenswood's enrollment, but the number of units or potential students that could be generated remains unclear.

Williams highlighted three positive findings in his report. Ravenswood saw small rebounds this year in students who live in what's defined as "relatively modest" single-family detached homes. The birth counts in the San Mateo County portion of the 94303 ZIP code also went up rather than declined in 2018. Lastly, a large number of potential units in below-market-rate developments in the area could help bring more students to the district and also provide stable housing for students who live in temporary housing or are sleeping in cars or RVs, Williams wrote.

The school board did not discuss the enrollment study extensively. Trustee Marielena Gaona-Mendoza said it is now their and the interim superintendent's responsibility to "brainstorm ... how we attract more students to come here."

Trustee Sharifa Wilson floated one suggestion: "challenging" the Voluntary Transfer Program, or Tinsley program, which allows East Palo Alto students to enroll in neighborhood districts through a lottery.

"Are these students better off staying in those schools or coming back to the district?" she asked. "As we're looking at projections we need to push back on that a little."


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15 people like this
Posted by Malcom
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 29, 2019 at 9:09 am

Why not simply bus the remaining EPA students to Palo Alto & integrate them into the PAUSD system?

Palo Alto could use some more diversity as it is primarily White & Asian now. African-Americans make up less than 2% of PA's population.

This is the primary why Palo Altans as a whole cannot relate to the issues & residents of EPA...they are sequestered in their own little world of self-serving priorities.

13 people like this
Posted by Cheryl
a resident of Woodside
on Mar 29, 2019 at 9:12 am

Challenging the Tinsley Program won’t solve this enrollment issue. Because it is a court order, all the districts will have to go back to court and I’m sure none of them want to waste money on attorney fees right now. Even if the program ended, those parents would opt to enroll their children in charter or private schools since they don’t like Ravenswood schools in the first place. I’m sure some of the school board members even have their own kids in the program so someone should really ask them in the next board meeting because that shows how much even they don’t believe in Ravenswood. Wasn’t Ana Pulido a product of Tinsley and attended Palo Alto school?

4 people like this
Posted by WhatamImissing
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2019 at 9:53 am

I'd love to see the Tom Williams report, anyone have a link? So the big elephant in the room... the Benefits of smaller class sizes! - Teachers love that, and the students benefit is all sort of ways. I think it's great! Go East Palo Alto!

11 people like this
Posted by Schools are Central
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2019 at 10:00 am

The primary effects of Tinsley have been a better education for a few (mostly middle class EPA families), no better education for the vast majority (who do no better at PAUSD and elsewhere than the same kids do in Ravenswood), and the systematic gutting of Ravenswood/EPA, as 20% of their most engaged and resourced families lost their primary connection to the district and the community.

In return, Ravenswood got nothing - just the job of educating the remaining low-income, many technically homeless students. If Tinsley was meant to help the EPA/Ravenswood community, isn't 30 years of failure enough? Time to try something else.

In fact, if the court order can't be overturned, I think the receiving districts, including PAUSD, should be asked - what are you doing to support the Ravenswood school district? You've taken their kids, you've taken their money, for 30+ years now - what are you going to give back?

5 people like this
Posted by Schools Are Central
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2019 at 10:04 am

Williams report Web Link

Presentation to the board Web Link

Unfortunately shrinking enrollment results in larger class sizes, since funding drops just as fast, and fixed costs of schools and the district office can't be cut quickly enough. Sorry.

10 people like this
Posted by Cheryl
a resident of Woodside
on Mar 29, 2019 at 10:48 am

@Schools are Central

The Tinsley Program was supposed to be a two-way thing where non-minority students from Belmont, Las Lomitas, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Carlos, and Woodside would go to Ravenswood but I believe only two families have done that in the 30+ years of the court order. One of the goals of the court order was to enhance inter-district cooperative efforts but that seems futile when the districts have their own problems to attend to.

Palo Alto will soon have the option to leave the program like Redwood City did in 1992 because their minority population is less than 1% away from the 60% threshold.

3 people like this
Posted by Schools are Central
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2019 at 11:32 am

@Cheryl, agree, Tinsley was meant to be a three legged stool - the VTP, both in and out of Ravenswood; creation of "model" (magnet) schools in Ravenswood; and a "Ravenswood Improvement Program" funded by the state. The only part that survived was VTP outbound, which amounts to a band-aid on a bullet hole.

On PAUSD, there are two big assumptions in your calculation - one is that all Asians would count as minority, which I doubt the judge would agree on in 2019; and that "more than one race" does as well. PAUSD white & more-than-one-race is now 47%, so all other, including Asians, is 53%. I also doubt very much that PAUSD would choose the leave the program, unless there was an alternative that was better.

10 people like this
Posted by Cheryl
a resident of Woodside
on Mar 29, 2019 at 11:48 am


The VTP is not the only thing left from the court order. Ravenswood receives additional funds (I believe 4 million) each year to carry out many instructional programs under the “Ravenswood Improvement Program” clause. A judge decided after the “Model School” study to not create a new school.

The court order explicitly states that “minority” is defined by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and they still consider Asians as such. Biracial students have been using their minority identity to quality for Tinsley so PAUSD should count more than one race in their calculation. I assume PA would want to leave Tinsley especially since they’re objecting Stanford’s development plans citing overenrollment.

2 people like this
Posted by Inquiring Minds
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2019 at 2:03 pm

[Portion removed.]

5 people like this
Posted by Raplace Eichman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 31, 2019 at 12:21 pm

The reporter of this article says that
He estimates Ravenswood will lose 583 students by 2021. In sharp contrast, the district had estimated in January that it would lose 136 students over the next three years.

"In sharp contrast, the district had estimated in January" Why is Mr. Eichman getting paid so much money when he does not know how to do his job. Ronda White has corrected him a couple of times. This is clear evidence that he cannot do the job right even when the district keeps paying Ms.Prima (former CBO) to assist him. Board Members, please replace Mr. Eichman with someone who has more knowledge of Mathematics. The same thing with the HR Director, she is not qualified to do the job. We cannot keep paying consultant after consultant to help unqualified administrators, if you know they cannot do the job, they should not be hired. It is a waste of money when we are in a financial crisis.

9 people like this
Posted by Yes, Eichman Needs to Go?
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 31, 2019 at 12:30 pm

Eichman has been either lying all along pretending that the district is not in crisis, or he is plain bad at Mathematics. He lied for Gloria so much to cover for her, an example is that many times he said at the KIPP community meetings and after Gloria is gone he puts on a show to impress KIPP to let the know that there is space available at the same location they are at. Pretty amazing, that there was no space, and now there is. I guess he knew Gloria was gone, and she is not there to cover for him either. I am glad Gloria is gone and could not disappear Belle Haven.

Like this comment
Posted by Not So Shocking...
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2019 at 1:33 pm

Given the quality of education Ravenswood provides, why would anybody be surprised by the White, Brown, and whatever else flight from this poor excuse for a school district? It doesn’t get much worse than what Ravenswood offers and the enrollment figures simply reflect what the district offers. As East Palo Alto’s economic base has grown, the community is essentially giving its district the proverbial “back of the hand”.

Like this comment
Posted by Tod ford
a resident of Green Acres
on May 3, 2019 at 11:41 pm

Great Reporting

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