On the first day of school in the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District this year, total enrollment stood at around 50 students below what was projected.
“I’m not overly alarmed at this point,” said Superintendent Christopher Schiermeyer. “We have some families we’re still following up with to see where they’re at, and if they’re coming back or not.”
SLVUSD started the year with 2,412 students. That figure includes the district’s charter school, which has around 300 students.
But that’s not too far out of the ordinary. The district’s population (minus the charter) usually fluctuates between 2,100 and 2,200, he said.
“I think in a normal year it would be a significant drop,” he said. “In a COVID year, and with the fires, there was some uncertainty on the initial projections.”
By Sept. 1, the district had picked up a few more students, with its student body at 2,106 on top of 317 charter school students, for a total of 2,423.
Still, the drop seems particularly steep, since the 2019-20 year saw 2,585 students learning at SLVUSD (2,299 tk-12 and 286 charter students)—but that higher number had to do with a high birth rate year working its way through the system (and graduating), he said.
Just seeing students back on campus at all, even with the mask mandate, has been thrilling, Schiermeyer stressed.
“There’s a lot of happy kids out there,” he said. “They’re really excited—outside playing with their friends, and eating lunch with their friends.”
He says psychological wellbeing for youth is a huge focus for the coming school year.
“I’m just looking forward to getting the kids through the curriculum,” he said, adding he knows there will be challenges after two school years disrupted by the pandemic. “There’s going to be some learning gaps both academically, and then there’s going to be some social gaps.”
But, Schiermeyer said, there will be mental health counselors at the schools, the district is implementing restorative justice practices and trauma-informed instruction at the middle school, and administrators will be tweaking their “positive behavioral interventions and supports” system, which attempts to promote healthy actions instead of relying on a punitive approach.
About half of the drop in anticipated enrollment was from parents not enrolling their kindergarteners, he said.
According to county officials, just a fraction of people whose homes burnt in last year’s CZU Lightning Complex fires have been allowed to start rebuilding.
Schiermeyer says this probably had an effect on the school district population, too.
“I think as the community rebuilds the numbers will go back up,” he said.
At the regularly scheduled Scotts Valley Unified School District meeting, Aug. 31, the board discussed lower enrollment numbers there, too.
According to current figures, which will need to be finalized before being submitted to the education authority, there are 2,212 SVUSD students this year, down from 2,267 last year.
That includes a drop to 744 from 780 students at Scotts Valley High School, a drop to 494 from 516 for Scotts Valley Middle School, and a drop to 441 from 443 at Brook Knoll Elementary School. However, Vine Hill increased slightly to 529 from 522.
Scotts Valley school district officials said most schools in California, except for those near the border, are seeing enrollment numbers drop.