Enrollment in the Santa Barbara Unified School District has dropped by about 2,084 students over the past decade.
On average, the district has lost about 208 students every year, according to a new enrollment report provided to the district’s trustees last week.
Santa Barbara Junior High School experienced the largest decline, 39%, over the past five years.
“I wish I was around to be able to tell the historical context for Santa Barbara Junior High,” said ShaKenya Edison, assistant superintendent of Student Services.
Edison was hired last year to replace Frann Wageneck, who worked at the district for 21 years before retiring to start an education consulting company.
The board talked about the enrollment numbers in a rushed, nine-minute report and discussion on Tuesday night.
Board member Virginia Alvarez said at the meeting that she would like to know if the district’s staffing levels have decreased at the same rate as enrollment.
She told Noozhawk after the meeting that she is looking forward to seeing a report after staff analyzes the numbers.
“Enrollment is declining statewide and locally,” Alvarez said. “It’s a significant piece of the moving parts of our annual planning.
“Enrollment drives staffing, class sizes and some funding so we have to analyze the trends, including birth rates, new housing developments and new business that may have employment opportunities.”
Edison ran through a series of slides that showed 14,291 students enrolled in 2014-2015. At the start of this school year, enrollment was 12,207.
She said the decline is in step with Santa Barbara County and statewide numbers.
According to her presentation, enrollment in the 2014-2015 school year was 64,708 students. Going into the current school year, the number is 62,299.
California’s overall enrollment was 5,690,540 in 2014-2015, but this is year is down to 5,166,991.
Locally over the past five years, Franklin School, at 1111 E. Mason St., dropped to 436 students from 539; Adams School, 2701 Las Positas Road, fell to 491 from 592; and Cleveland School, 123 Alameda Padre Serra, declined to 252 from 341.
“Overall, if we are comparing the elementaries’ enrollment from 2019 until now, they range from 3% to a 29% decrease,” Edison said.
Enrollment at Santa Barbara Junior High, 721 E. Cota St., plummeted to 504 students from 804. La Cumbre Junior High, 2255 Modoc Road, dropped to 449 from 533.
At the high schools, only Dos Pueblos High, 7266 Alameda Ave., grew its enrollment, to 2,079 this year from 1,988 in 2019.
Alvarez said many factors could be at play.
“There could be a correlation with Santa Barbara being such an expensive place to live with not many big employers, or affordable housing,” Alvarez said.
“All of these factors make it hard for families to live here.”
Board president Wendy Sims-Moten said California’s high cost of living, changing demographics and the COVID-19 pandemic also could be factors.
“Despite the challenges of declining enrollment, we keep our focus of every child, every chance every day,” she said.