Sunday, February 21, 2016

School board discusses next year's enrollment at Thursday's meeting

(Originally published in the 2/21/16 edition)

   Tim Rahill, the chief business official of Benicia Unified School District, delivered a report on enrollment projections for the 2016-2017 school year at a shortened school board meeting Thursday.
   Rahill noted that kindergarten and transitional kindergarten enrollment numbers are slated to be about the same as the previous year. Meanwhile, the district’s four elementary schools are projected to have slightly fewer students.
   “What you can see in the handout is that when we roll the grade levels into next year, we might be experiencing a decline in enrollment at the elementary schools by about 56 students,” Rahill said. “That’s basically due to the fact of a fifth grade exiting out to the middle school, and a smaller TK (and) K coming in.”
   Additionally, Rahill said that Benicia Middle School is likely to see a decrease in enrollment by 56 students, but this is par for the course. 
   “Historically, what happens at the middle school level is that we get students that enroll primarily from other private schools that come into the public school system,” he said. “We experience that, and it’s pretty flat. We’ve experienced that for the last seven years, so we’re not really anticipating a decline in enrollment at the middle school.”
   At the high school level, Rahill said the district is expecting a slight increase in students at both Benicia High School and Liberty High School by 33. 
   Rahill said the district is primarily focused on the elementary school enrollments.
   “Know that the office managers and the principals are working hard to do community outreach to get folks to enroll as soon as possible,” he said. “If that decline in enrollment sticks, we’ll be talking to the principals about potential adjusting to the staffing that we provide for less students.”
   In terms of staffing projections, Deputy Superintendent Michael Gardner pointed out that the district has experienced double the amount of retirements at the elementary schools as well as several resignations. 
   “We don’t anticipate any kinds of notices for any layoffs this year,” Gardener said. “We will be able to cover them with attrition.” 
   President Gary Wing asked what the dates were for students being accepted into transitional kindergarten and if students with slightly later birthdays would qualify. The dates are from Sept. 2 to Dec. 2, and Assistant Superintendent Marie Morgan said the district does not open transitional kindergarten up to all students.
   “There are a couple of exceptions, depending upon educational circumstances in terms of assessments or special circumstances for students,” she said. 
   Transitional kindergarten is an optional program for students who have their fifth birthday between September and December and can be taken in place of regular kindergarten. Trustee Stacy Holguin asked how much longer the district would be offering transitional kindergarten. Rahill responded by saying the state provides funding for transitional kindergarten, and BUSD would continue to offer it to families who choose to take part.
   “At this point in time, they’re not required to enroll, but if they want to we will provide TK,” he said.
   In other business, the board approved the first reading of several board policies, including the development of protocols to ensure that students are placed into an appropriate math class and not one they have already taken and a new law that prohibits districts from discriminating against a person requesting accommodations for disability or religious beliefs. 
   The board convened early to attend Benicia High’s open house night. The board will be holding a special board meeting study session at 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 25. The next regular board meeting will be Thursday, March 3 at its regular start time of 7 p.m. in the Benicia Unified School District Board Room at the district building on 350 East K Street.


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