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High school enrollment to fall, says state

Turlock numbers should stay stable

POSTED October 27, 2009 11:22 p.m.
A recently released State Department of Finance report projects declining high school enrollment in Stanislaus County, but the Turlock Unified School District expects to buck the trend.
Enrollment at TUSD schools remained flat overall this year, with a mild increase in high school students and a slight drop off in K-6 students. Staff doesn’t anticipate any change in the student population next year.
“I think we do a good job at both of our high schools,” said TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto. “I think people that do live in Turlock and have the ability to go to our schools do prefer to go to our schools.”
The state projects falling enrollment at the high school level in Stanislaus County through the 2016-2017 school year, when the county will lay claim to just 30,187 high schoolers. Stanislaus County had as many as 33,694 high school students in 2007-2008, the high water year.
The County is projected to have progressively fewer high school graduates each year until a low point of 5,980 is hit in 2010-2011. Graduate numbers then increase through the 2013-2014 year, to 6,036, before falling off to 5,746 the next year.
The state projections chronicle an expected 11 percent increase in total enrollment by the 2018-2019 school year, ranking 21st among all 58 California counties. Only 1.7 percent of that growth would be seen by the 2013-2014 school year, though.
The fact that the TUSD projections don’t quite match up with the state’s numbers isn’t of concern to district staff. They believe that the TUSD schools will weather the down enrollment storm better than other local districts will.
“Hopefully it says we're a great school district and they (students) want to come here, but I'm not sure that's what it says,” Da Marto said.
Da Marto said that he believes Turlock’s schools are actually seeing a benefit in enrollment due to the down economy, as some parents who may have once chosen pricey private schools for their students are instead looking to the public school alternatives.
Regardless of future enrollments, TUSD remains committed to securing as much funding as possible for each student, Da Marto said. As declining enrollment leads to smaller budgets for school districts — whose state funding is based upon average daily attendance figures — the TUSD is focusing on making sure that all those students signed up actually make their way to class.
The new Just Say Go campaign, instituted this year to increase attendance, has already led to a “significant increase” in attendance, according to Da Marto. The recent flu season has hurt the district’s attendance numbers a bit, he admitted, but Da Marto believes the district will recover once flu season is over and done with.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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