First published in the Sept. 2 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.
Enrollment in the San Marino Unified School District has experienced further decline, according to preliminary figures sent to the Tribune by Linda de la Torre, the SMUSD’s acting superintendent.
The overall number of students for the 2021-22 school year has dropped to 2,697, more than 400 fewer than attended schools five years ago, when the count was 3,101 — a 13% decrease. San Marino High School’s enrollment has dropped to 866 students, compared with 1,110 during the 2016-17 academic year.
“California public schools as well as the SMUSD have experienced a decline in enrollment this year as the pandemic forced millions into online school,” said SMUSD Board of Education President Shelley Ryan. “The continued decline came as school districts faced challenges to addressing the containment of COVID-19 and multiple D-variants in compliance with county and state health protocols and procedures.
“The drop is by far the biggest decline in years and represents the clearest picture yet of the pandemic’s devastating toll on California public schools,” she added.
Ryan said the trend extends beyond San Marino’s borders.
“The California Department of Education data shows that the number of students at K-12 schools dropped by more than 160,000 this academic year, most of them at the K-6 level, to a total of 6 million,” Ryan stated.
Average daily attendance is a factor in the school’s funding of local school districts.
More detailed reasons for the local decrease are expected to be discussed at the SMUSD board’s next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 14. Possible factors that have sometimes been speculated on in the community include a change in the birth rate, residents’ departures from California and a strong economy that might have enabled some residents to send their children to private schools.
The enrollment numbers are not final, according to De la Torre. The state also has not made a final decision on how to classify students who are opting for independent study.
The item also is expected to be on the agenda for the upcoming school board meeting.
“I do not know what the superintendent and cabinet are presenting in two weeks, but I would imagine it will address some of the challenges facing all schools,” Ryan concluded.