LASD Student Enrollment Growth Stalls

LASD student enrollment is trending down...not up. Do we really need to buy new land?
Written by lalahpolitico

The total k-8 LASD student enrollment for 2017-18 school year is lower than in the previous year…lower every year since the passage of the $150M Measure N school facilities bond in 2014.  The LASD student enrollment at the District’s 9 schools are also trending flat or down…curiously, except for Covington elementary. The upshot: Buying land for a 10th site seems dumb and dumber.

Graph: LASD Student Enrollment,
Actual Growth 2007-17 in purple
vs. Demographer Forecasts 2014-18

#LASDk8 student enrollment forecast, Los Altos School District, 10th site,

Click image for a larger version. In 2014, in the run up to the $150m Measure N bond election, the consulting demographer made 3 forecast scenarios– blue, red, green.  In 2014 LASD claimed “capacity” as around 4,750. [Note this is a forecast for LASDk8 ONLY, It does not include the 850+ students at Bullis Charter School]



The LASD demographer made a presentation to the LASD trustees in April 2014. It included slide (page 19) shown below which is the source for 3 forecast lines of LASD student enrollment in the graph above. The purple line represents actual enrollments which are measured by the state each October … data which Lalahpolitico easily obtained … mainly from the web site.

For the more distant years of LASD student enrollment going back to 2007, I had to extract data  year by year from large files called archives at My source for the the most recent October data for the 2017-18 school year is a .pdf table being circulated by LASD. The 2017-18 LASD student enrollment data has been reported to the state but is not yet uploaded into the website.

[Graph discrepancy. Note there is tiny 8 student discrepancy in the 2013-14 actual purple line data point in the graph. In April 2014, The demographer’s table had enrollment at 4542, but the fresh data I took from   during October 2017, reports 2013-14 as 4550. Immaterial. ]


Fun Fact: Back in 2014, per the demographer’s presentation, the LASD superintendent claimed that the combined enrollment “capacity” at the 9 existing schools of the LASD system was 4750 students. Lalahpolitico: Does anyone know where this capacity assumption comes from?  Does it assume no spending at all to build any additional instructional space on existing land? Does it assume no spending … even for additional portables?

Table -Demographer Forecast

LASD enrollment forecast made in 2014

…From an April 2014 presentation by the consulting demographer to the LASD trustees…TK refers to the transitional kindergarten law of 2010, which provides free (voluntary)  tk to kids with fall birthdays.


The main demographer forecasts of LASD student enrollment were made in 2014  for LASD enrollment, not including BCS. So that is the way Lalahpolitico is going to look at it.  

Background on Transitional Kindergarten (TK) laws: In  2014 there seemed to be some chance that the state legislature would pay for expanding transitional kindergarten to ALL four year olds, not just those with fall birthdays. Thus, the consulting demographer made another set of forecasts assuming  the “New TK Law” too.  But those, of course, predict even higher enrollments… so those are not the ones Lalahpolitico is looking at in this post.

Graph: 9 Schools Enrollment trends

LASD enrollment by school 2007 to 2017, Los Altos School District

Click on image for larger image. Graph of student enrollment at 9 LASD schools over the past 10 school years.

Table: 9 Schools Enrollment trends

Most of the elementary school enrollments are trending down. Santa Rita looks flat. Gardner in LAH still can’t get above 350 students and remains our teeny tiny country school. Enrollment was so low a few years that the district had to reassign some Santa Rita families to Gardner.

Curiously Covington has trended up and has the largest enrollment of all the elementary schools exceeding Santa Rita.

LASD enrollment by school for 10 years

Data table for the enrollment by school. Click For larger version.

Why is Covington so large now? Some possible explanations include packing in of special ed students and of transitional kindergarten classes. [TK is open to any child of the right age. If there is not a TK class offered at the neighborhood school, the child can be assigned to one at another location]. Lalahpolitico:  Looking at the orange Loyola line, vs. the yellow Covington line,  it  almost looks as if Loyola students were getting reassigned by the District to Covington? The two schools are practically neighbors.  LASD probably wants to max out the enrollment at the two school sites — Covington and Gardner —  which Bullis Charter has historically asked repeatedly to occupy.  With max enrollment at those two sites, there are abundant parents to protest “closing a school.”

What Does Shrinking Enrollment Mean?

Hey, “Flat” is not fake news! It’s a fact. It’s actually happening. Will LASD student enrollment continue to be flat or shrinking? Maybe, maybe not.


1.The fact makes it harder for many people to believe the LASD “party dogma” that we need new land for a tenth site.  

2.Instead the fact strengthens the arguments of folks who advocate for using existing land … whether it be for a NEC Mountain View residents’ school and/or a school for Bullis Charter students. See MV Voice  Still No Solid Plan for school bond money.See Nancy Bremeau’s LATC letter. See Creative Facilities Solutions in LATC.

3. The fact makes the ongoing 3-year search for land for a 10th school site look like just more LASD trustee procrastination. They promised to look at using existing land; they continue to break that promise.  See prior post.

Mountain View City Council 2017, Los Altos, LASD, TDRs

Here is the MV City Council on Oct. 3 preparing to discuss the crafting of a Master Agreement with LASD for a TDR process and for shared Open Space/Recreational Facilities. The MV Council will review any  LASD project proposal that may emerge…before entitlements to build become a reality. Many things would still need to fall in place…before this NEC school idea could ever become a reality.

TDRs – San Antonio Area as the 10th site

At this very moment,  a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees are understood to be working with various developers and the City of Mountain View on a complex “TDR” deal for a site in the Kohl’s neighborhood of the  San Antonio Precise Plan area. It involves the MV City Council allowing the District to sell a “right to develop 5+ stories of square footage” (TDR) of mostly housing square footage to a developer in a completely different Precise Plan Area.

Concessions to LASD: Letting the TDR be used outside of the San Antonio Precise Area was the first gift MV Council gave LASD on Oct. 3. LASD received another major concession when the MV Council agreed that night that the 600,000 or so of square footage potentially transferred by LASD from the San Antonio Precise Plan could  be used for office space, not just housing space.



Who else benefits? It is rumored that Google is interested in such a TDR because it has completely built out the office space allowed in the North Bayshore Precise Plan Area.  Will MV City Council allow that deal with LASD? Let’s recall that Google seems to have reneged on at least flip-flopped on its promise to build 10,000 units of high density housing in the North Bayshore Plan Area for its thousands of employees. How badly does City of MV want an urban school in the San Antonio area?…badly enough to let Google weasel out of the hard limit on office in the Bayshore area?  And let’s recall that the housing development that Google had promised in the Bayshore area was supposed to include land & money dedication for a new MV-Whisman district school.

*****See MV Voice: MV Council paves way for a LASD San Antonio school

See MV Voice. Google likes school TDRs

See MV Voice. Google relents on more office space

See MV Voice. MV Whisman: EIR should say there is IMPACT on schools.

MV has video recordings of the Oct. 3 meeting. Here is the LASD TDR item.

Several MV Council members at the Oct. 3 meeting urged that the potential new San Antonio school be for a NEC neighborhood school, not for the Bullis Charter School magnet school. Traffic was one key concern. But they agreed not to make that a stipulation on the TDR process. See excellent MV Voice article  with the facts and with some analysis; and also look over the lively reader comments.

And here see a  LATC letter from Mark Boennignhausen fantasizing about a NEC school location for BCS being a win-win, acceptable to the majority who care about LASD student enrollment trends and fairness!

Even with TDRs – Is new MV Land the optimal bond spending?

Lalahpolitico:  concerns, questions about Measure N

Urban High School, San Francisco

Photo of the Urban School, an independent high school in the City of San Francisco.

1.STILL EXPENSIVE. Even with TDRs,  new San Antonio land would still be very expensive…probably much more than $10 to 12 million an acre, the value per acre in the residential City of Los Altos. Because of the cost, will the district buy fewer acres, creating an inferior school for LASD student enrollment? Lalahpolitico:  I hope not.

2.URBAN or SUBURBAN. Would most NEC families actually prefer to be spread across 3 or more schools in the leafy suburbs as they are now? Or walking to a nearby urban school with less land per student? Who knows? Lalahpolitico: No one cares enough to do an official survey.

3.KIDS WON’T FIT. Some say there are over 800 NEC Mountain View students now.  They all won’t fit into ONE “local urban” school anyway. LASD policy says a “large” k-6 should be capped at around 500 students.

Sandra McGonagle, LASD Superintendent for Instruction at a teacher training session. She has supported moving 6th graders to Egan and Blach campuses.

4. FREE SPACE NOW AT JR. HIGHS! If the District were to finally move  6th graders from the seven elementary schools to the two underutilized  Jr. High sites…there would be space at all seven k-5 schools to accommodate around 500 more NEC students than we have now, spreading them around the schools as now.

( They are at Santa Rita, Almond, Covington… perhaps in the future also assign them to the Loyola, Gardner, Oak and Springer? Or perhaps better yet, let’s not foist all the inconvenience on NEC families.  Instead redraw attendance areas everywhere. It’s overdue. )

Even the LASD assistant superintendent for instruction has recommended moving to the so-called Middle School model – placing sixth grade at the huge 7th and 8th grade campuses of Egan and Blach.  That way, sixth graders have access to many more specialized teachers for math, science, etc. Lalahpolitico: It is shocking to me that the LASD board of trustees year-after-year continues to kowtow to the parents who are educational NIMBYs.

The flatliner vs. the innovative startup…

Compared to LASD, do you know which “school system” has had a growing enrollment?  Bullis Charter School went from about 100 kids to about 850 kids over the same 10 year period!

850  bcs / 5156 public students means BCS comprises over 16% of our local LASD public school attendance area students now.  BCS has absorbed ALL of the public school enrollment growth for the LASD jurisdiction.

Lalahpolitico: Even with the talented Ms. Mc Gonagle at the instructional helm, LASD apparently can’t become innovative enough to attract more parents. Without her efforts to enhance  LASD teaching and programs, enrollment might have contract even more than it has.  It’s a sad situation that traditional public schools face even more bureaucratic burdens imposed by the State than a charter does.  It would great if the State of California Dept. of Education bureaucracy could be reformed some day, wouldn’t it?! Oh and more money would be good too – let’s reform the Propostion 13 property tax law someday.


Reference: LASD’s 2017-18 LASD Enrollment Growth report

LASD 2017-18 enrollment data reporting, Los Altos, Creative Facilities Solutions

Here is the October 2017-18 enrollment data as prepared by LASD. It will show up on the web site eventually



About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past couple of years.