Funds sinking alongside enrollment

Declining enrollment at San Francisco’s public high schools will leave the secondary school campuses with about $2.4 million less in per-pupil funding next year.

Districtwide, enrollment is projected to drop by 348 students in the 2008-09 school year, according to budget documents adopted by the San Francisco Board of Education this week. While most elementary schools are expected to swell with students, middle schools — and especially high schools — are expected to see fewer faces come August.

While new parents may stick close to San Francisco while their children are young, the transition to high school also may spark transition to a less-expensive place to live, said Margaret Chiu, associate superintendent in the district’s high school division.

“When children are younger, you feel more connected to the community, but when kids make that gigantic step to go to high school, a lot of parents think that’s a good time to make the move,” Chiu said.

Almost every high school is expected to have a smaller population in the fall, but some — including Galileo and Burton — may be looking at significant drops. In total, the district has enrolled 432 fewer high school students for next year. With state per pupil funding estimated at $31.16 per day for the 2008-09 school year, the loss in funding to high schools totals approximately $2.42 million.

Burton has lost nearly half of its population since 2003-04, when it enrolled 1,904 students. It’s projected to lose 173 more in the fall, according to budget documents. The enrollment drop could mean nearly $2 million less for Burton’s coffers.

“The financial impact is quite severe,” Burton Principal William Kappenhagen said. While Burton is developing five new “academies” on topics from computers to health and recruiting students across The City, doing so takes cash, he added.

At Galileo, the decline is an intentional effort to reduce overcrowding at the popular high school, according to Principal Vicki Pesek.

“In the past few years, our class sizes are terrible — like more than 40 students in a room,” Pesek said. “There’s too many people.”

While Galileo also will receive less money in the fall, the faculty is willing to make do with fewer supplies — and five fewer teachers — in order to give students more personal attention, Pesek said.

Meanwhile, San Francisco’s charter schools are slowly expanding, and the Board of Education is looking for ways to create “small schools” of 400 or fewer students, including the newly approved Internationals High School, scheduled to open in 2009. That could force the district to consider closing some other schools, board member Jill Wynns said.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

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