Following a trend seen throughout the Santa Clarita Valley, the Newhall School District is expected to see declining enrollment for the next three years, according to a new report from Davis Demographics.
Currently, the Newhall district has 6,003 resident students in transitional kindergarten (TK) to sixth grade.
In the fall of 2018, the district could see that number drop to around 5,800 resident TK-6 students, following an ongoing trend in the district.
“These losses are mainly attributed to the much smaller kindergarten class sizes that have been entering the district (due to the area’s declining birthrates) and the complete absence of any significant new residential development for over five-plus years,” the student population report read.
All 10 existing attendance areas are expected to experience declining student populations through at least the next two years.
“The resident population for Newhall School District has been declining since 2009 and that trend is expected to continue through fall 2020, or at least until the new units from Newhall Ranch arrive,” the report read.
The Newhall district’s declining enrollment has a significant impact on the district’s budgeting and Average Daily Attendance (ADA), which is used to determine funding from the state.
“We get our ADA per student, so if we get new students we get new funding,” Newhall Governing Board President Phil Ellis said. “That’s the problem with declining enrollment is we lose dollars for those students that we’re down.”
However, Ellis noted that the report’s projections are typically conservative so the district usually does not have student populations below the report’s expectations.
“(Davis Demographics) are conservative in their approach so we usually do a little better, no worse,” Ellis said. “This is the worst case type of thing and we plan our budget based on their projections as well since that determines our funding.”
This decline also impacts the district’s employees, and could result in employee re-assignments or employee layoffs.
“One of the first things is we have formulas set up to see how many teachers we have and assistant principals we have based on the number of students and things,” Ellis said. “At some point, we have to look at layoffs… We don’t like to let valuable employees go, we like to reassign them with we can.”
In fact, during Tuesday’s board meeting the district is expected to reassign two positions, an assistant principal and a PE teacher in the district, due to declining enrollment.
The district plans to reduce the number of assistant principal positions by one. It also plans to discontinue a PE teacher position from Wiley Canyon and Newhall Elementary Schools due to a lack of funding available in the upcoming 2018-19 school year.
Both of these certificated employees are being reassigned to classroom positions, according to the agenda item.
Mitigating Student Loss
To help alleviate some the district’s declining enrollment, the Newhall district made a “concerted effort” to increase its out-of-district transfers through its ongoing marketing campaign.
This resulted in inter-district and out-of-district student transfers increasing for the seventh consecutive year, starting at 117 students in 2009 and increasing to an all-time high of 532 students in 2017, according to the report.
These increases in out-of-district students reduced the Newhall district’s overall loss of students. For example, in 2017 the Newhall district lost 245 resident K-6 students, but gained an additional 75 out-of-district students. This resulted in a net loss of 170 K-6 students, instead of a net loss of 245 K-6 students.
To continue alleviating overall student enrollment losses, the Newhall district plans to continue marketing to out-of-district students until its resident student population begins to grow again, according to the report.
The Newhall Ranch projects are projected to have the biggest impact on the Newhall area schools, with the “Mission Village” project welcoming residents as soon as 2021.
Additional residential developments—the Legacy Village and Homestead Village—could also impact the Newhall district, but they are not expected to have their first occupants until beyond the 2023-24 school year.
Nearly all of the growth in the district during the next seven years is expected to occur on the west side of the 5 freeway with the construction of Mission Village.
The construction is especially expected to impact Oak Hills Elementary, which could see student enrollment increase from 325 students in 2019 to 564 by 2021, 866 by 2022 and nearly 1,040 by 2024.
To alleviate these increases, the district is considering building another elementary school within the Oak Hills Elementary area by 2023 if the projects begin as planned, according to the report. The district may also build additional schools once the entire Newhall Ranch project is completed.
“The goal is three builds,” Ellis said. “That area also covers a little bit of Castaic and Saugus school districts, but we will have the bulk of the impact.”
As new construction projects begin, the Newhall district may also look at adjusting attendance areas and boundary lines to “better distribute its changing student population,” especially with schools west of the 5 freeway.
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