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TUSD prepares to accommodate long-term growth
Walnut Elementary is the last school site built in Turlocks district and the only one operating at almost capacity levels. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

Too much of a good thing can exist, such as when classes at schools are overfilled with students which can impact the academic environment and the quality of learning. Fortunately, the Turlock Unified School District keeps track of trends and is planning for an increase in student enrollment in upcoming years.


Every two years a facilities review is conducted to ensure that the District is accounting for future student population changes that could impact facilities. For the kindergarten through sixth grade school sites TUSD has the capacity to serve a total of 8,660 students, according to the facilities review, which excludes non-traditionally educated classrooms such as special education and Head Start. According to the California Basic Educational Data System, an annual data collection administered each October, none of these sites are at capacity, except for Walnut Elementary which has 910 spots filled of the available 912 due to its lottery system.


“Ultimately we will be looking at something very similar with the Osborn Immersion Program sometime in the future. It will add as time goes along close to the capacity figure,” said Roger Smith, facilities planner and safety coordinator for TUSD, who used trends in housing unit history and developments to estimate potential fluctuation in student enrollment. “Students do not come in nice, neat packages. The goal is to have no surprises.”   


The junior high schools and high schools are at 69 percent capacity while the elementary schools are at 81 percent. The percentages are based off of new student loading factors, such as a result of the new Local Control Funding Formula, which are determined by state budget factors and delegate how many students can be placed in each classroom. In TUSD, most sites are at 24 students per classroom for transitional kindergarten through third grade, and 32 students for fourth through twelfth grade.


In order to forecast future trends in student population, the District can use the State Cohort Survival Method which is the weighted average over the past four years of enrollment and allows the District to witness grade sizes progress and reflects anticipated trends in backfilling of existing homes and the new housing constructions. This method estimates that transitional kindergarten through 6th grade will be at roughly 82.4 percent capacity, seventh and eighth grade schools will be at 76 percent capacity and high schools will be at 73 percent capacity between the years of 2018-2019.  


The Turlock general plan that was adopted by the city anticipates growth over the next 20 years and identifies possible locations for another high school, another junior high school, and several potential elementary schools, according to Smith, who will be presenting on suggested projects and funding options at the March 18 TUSD board meeting.