Projected decline in district enrollment, according to Davis Demographics

PHOTO: The Davis High sign on the corner of W. 14th Street and Oak Ave is shown. DHS is part of the Davis Joint Unified School District, which is predicted to see a declining enrollment rate.

By Sarah Kim, Staff– 

During the March 4 Davis Joint Unified School District board meeting, Davis Demographics presented statistics about the future enrollment rate. 

The data shows a declining birth rate as well as a declining enrollment rate from K-12, which is projected to decline steadily over the next five years. However, Davis Demographics also predicts out-of-city students will increase for the next five years for DJUSD schools. 

According to Scott Torlucci, the Davis Demographics senior project manager, these numbers provided during the board meeting “[help] planning by giving the district an idea of what the enrollment rate will be in the future so they will effectively plan their budget and provide appropriate facilities that will be needed to house the kids in the right location,” Torlucci said.

For DJUSD affiliates like Joe DiNunzio and Matt Best, the projected numbers are alarming, as low enrollment would lead to many unwanted decisions. 

Board of Education President Joe DiNunzio believes the shortage of housing, declining birth rate, high cost of housing, as well as a lower number of young families in town all have contributed to the declining number of local students’ enrollment rate. 

According to DiNunzio, these low enrollment rates over the past few years have made the funding DJUSD receives from the state lower in comparison to surrounding districts. This meant the average daily attendance (ADA) funding for DJUSD schools would be lower than other districts due to the low enrollment rate and students attending schools. 

Along with low ADA funding, DJUSD does not get as many concentration grants known as funding from state to districts with more than 55 percent of students in high need, as the number of students in high need in DJUSD is about 25 percent compared to the state average of 55 percent. 

With a lack of funding, DiNunzino comments on how Davis voters would usually help to bridge the gap through parcel taxes as well as higher enrollment of out-of-city students.

Deputy Superintendent Matt Best believes the primary effect of low enrollment would be a cut on staff, classes and teachers, and potentially shutting down schools. 

“[The] more full our classrooms are, the more stable our finances are. When enrollments start to decline over time, you face these painful contractions […] because you may not have enough students in a given class to pay for the teacher,” Best said. 

However, Best and DiNunzio say the increase in enrollment of out-of-city students in DJUSD is one of the hopeful as well as a realistic way to solve the finance and budget problems to amend the low enrollment rate of local students. 

“[It] looks like more out of boundary students would come with more employment in UC Davis and the attractiveness of DJUSD as a whole,” said DiNunzio, as many out-of-city students have guardians or parents who work in Davis and this allows them to attend DJUSD schools. 

Although some criticism comes from residents for out-of-city students as they do not pay parcel taxes unlike the local students, Best believes otherwise. “From my perspective […] filling the seats with out-of-city students is by far the smartest move,” Best said. “Because if you don’t, the reductions that you have to make are quite painful.” 

Best believes nothing unique will change with more increase in out-of-city students. “We are seeing the same level of athletic participation, club attendance, those things haven’t changed last year as a percentage [even with more out-of-city students],” he said.  

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