The William S. Hart Union Governing Board heard a presentation Wednesday that informed them their high school enrollment numbers would continue to decline over the next seven years.
With enrollment and average daily attendance being one of the primary determinants for how much school districts receive from the state each year in funding, the board expressed their concerns during their meeting about the projected figures presented by David Kaitz from Davis Demographics.
While some of the residents who spoke during public comment blamed the district’s curriculum and adherence to public health mandates, Kaitz stated the demography issues for the district were largely tied to the type and amount of housing being constructed over the next seven years, as well as the age of the families living in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Since 2014-2015, the California Department of Education has reported steady declines across the state in the number of K-12 students currently enrolled in public school. And according to the latest projections, the Hart District, especially its high schools, are no different than those around the state in terms of their population trends.
Kaitz stated during his presentation that the district’s high schools, as a whole and should no new major housing developments crop up in the next seven years, will be down roughly 762 (5%) enrolled students between 2021 and 2028.
While the number of seventh and eighth grade students will remain stable, Kaitz said that of the seven high schools in the district, only West Ranch High School and Castaic High School are projected to have a net increase in the number of enrolled students due to the not-yet-completed FivePoints Valencia housing development off Highway 126.
“Between those two on the westside, we’re looking at almost 900 more high school students over the next seven years,” Kaitz said during his presentation. “But as you can kind of see, (in) all the other areas we’re expecting that the numbers they’re at now is their highest they’re going to be over the next seven years.”
“When you look at the district as a whole, it doesn’t tell you the story of what’s really happening… it’s also your feeder districts,” Kaitz added. “Most of the areas on the eastside of the I-5 are aging out, there’s not as much development, and there’s declining…and like we said it’s going to go on for many, many years.”
However, a silver lining for the Hart District is that while the number of junior high school students enrolled has seen a steady decline for the district — a roughly 854 (12%) drop since 2018 —that relatively smaller cohort of students will advance onto the higher grades.
And while that smaller cohort will shrink the overall number of high school students districtwide, the seventh and eighth grade student population are projected to stabilize over the next seven years — with only an approximate 34 student enrollment drop at the junior high level when comparing 2021 to 2028.
“For your six middle school zones, we anticipate some type of decline; the most area decline would be in the La Mesa area over the next seven years,” said Kaitz. “The areas of growth are Rancho Pico, for obvious reasons on the west there, and Sierra Vista, about 100 student growth in that area.”