Declining Enrollment in CUSD

Kavya Gupta

As enrollment at the Cupertino Union School District (CUSD) continues its downward trend for its sixth year in a row, students and families look to the community for answers. The astronomical prices of family housing, underfunding of the school district, and low birth rates are all supposed instigators of the phenomenon.

Regnart, Meyerholz, John Muir and Blue Hills elementary schools have been particularly impacted by the trend. As their class sizes become smaller, the schools face a growing threat of eventual closure.

In 2017, then-Superintendent of CUSD Wendy Gudalewics told Mercury News, “The schools feel it. We’ve been out there with parents. They say it’s hard to raise funds. In some cases, you don’t even have two full grade levels per grade. That can impact teachers with collaboration.”

Gudalewics said that the district had already been undergoing declining enrollment for two years. She cited the rapidly rising prices of family housing as a major issue, as well as low birth rates in Silicon Valley. As of 2018, enrollment is projected to drop by 1200 students from 2018 to 2023.

Decreasing birth rates may, in fact, be a significant contributor. As of 2017, birth rates in the Silicon Valley have dropped by nearly 13% since 2008, dropping to their lowest levels since the mid-80’s. However, it doesn’t seem to be nearly as impactful as other explanations.

An obvious reason for the decreasing enrollment is the well-known housing crisis in California. The immigration rates of younger students fall below emigration rates in Silicon Valley, as the cost of renting or buying family housing continues to trek upwards. A study from Bloomberg claims that “more than 40% of residents are considered cost-burdened for housing — paying more than 30% of their income toward shelter.”

“[The high cost of living] is impacting us throughout the district, but we see it in areas where we have apartments; communities like Garden Gate have told us they’re getting out-priced, they can’t rent,” Gudalewics said. “In the south end, the homes are extremely expensive, so when the houses are [ bought], they’re usually not households with little kids.”

CUSD is also combatting a lack of funding. As a higher-ranked public school district in the state, CUSD receives less funding due to divestment in funds made to schools with greater amounts of low-income families, which are given more money to overcome issues of poverty. Additionally, California is ranked at 41 in the nation for school funding, according to the CUSD Board of Trustees President Lori Cunningham. Public schools in California are thus already prone to diminishing enrollment, funds and resources.

If the aforementioned schools do close, their students will be relocated to other schools throughout the district. Families see this as an inconvenience because they will be moved outside walking proximity. Housing prices in the area will also drop. According to studies done in Chicago, Michigan and Ohio, at the time of closing, there is little change in the displaced students’ test scores or grades, but the quality of schools that absorb those students tends to drop. In the long-term, students that had been displaced showed small impacts on reading test and math test scores.

Unfortunately, there will also be a significant effect on FUHSD. The size of Lynbrook High School’s freshman classes has been decreasing for years, allowing FUHSD to create the Lynbrook Supplemental School Assignment Plan (LSSAP) to improve numbers. The LSSAP helps students from Miller Middle School and Christa McAuliffe Elementary School enroll at Lynbrook, while reserving spots for a few students from Hyde Middle School as well. If enrollment drops by a significant amount, the school will be forced to remove some elective courses and reduce the size of their athletic department.