Jump in enrollment may save San Bruno school

Thanks to a roughly 100-student boost in districtwide enrollment this year, the San Bruno Park School District is reconsidering closing one of its seven elementary schools.

District officials earlier this year, citing declining enrollment and the resulting decline in funding, said they would have to close a school at the beginning of the next school year.

A committee of approximately60 community members, with the goal of choosing a school to close by January 2008, has been meeting to discuss the issue. District trustee Russ Hanley said the committee had not yet narrowed down the choices for closure, and that they were still in discussion mode at this time.

Come October, however, the district board is scheduled to review birthrate data and projections that show whether San Bruno can expect its schools to see a continued increase in enrollment, an anomaly on the Peninsula, which has seen declining enrollment at many of its schools over the last several years.

Superintendent David Hutt estimates that during the last five years, the district has lost 350 students, roughly the size of a large elementary school. The district has continually lost approximately 100 students annually.

But this year, the district saw class sizes, especially for kindergarten through second grade, jump dramatically. There were 290 kindergartners last year, compared with 327 this year, making this the first in several years that the number rose above 300, district figures show.

“It’s too early to say definitively,” Hutt said. “But we’re going to revisit the issue and see whether we still need to go this route [of closing a school].”

Declining enrollment was also responsible for the closure of Laura Engvall Intermediate School and Carl Sandburg School — currently being redeveloped into housing — in the 1970s.

Hanley speculated that this year’s increase may be due to an influx of people in the airline business, namely from area newcomer Virgin America, to the San Bruno area.

“Smaller classes are always better, but it wasn’t cost-effective anymore,” Hanley said. “We absolutely want to prevent a closure if we can. But of course, you have to look at the trends, since you never know for sure what’ll happen when you’re talking about school enrollment.”

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