Enrollment at San Diego Unified’s magnet schools rose 3 percent last year, according to a voiceofsandiego.org analysis of school enrollment data.

That’s a much bigger boost than most San Diego schools experienced, according to a Nov. 7 report released by the district’s Financial Operations Division. Enrollment bumped 0.4 percent this year, according to the report.

Magnets are public schools that offer specialized curricula focusing on high-interest areas such as science, music, foreign languages and theatre. San Diego schools launched magnet programs at Barnard and Birney Elementary schools and the new Joyner Elementary School this fall, adding to a roster of nearly 40 magnet programs. Advocates plugged the special programs as a way to attract students back into the district, which has suffered from declining enrollment.

Thus far, the magnets seem to have pull. Barnard’s Mandarin Chinese program attracted 20 new students, boosting the school’s enrollment by nearly 13 percent. Thirty-one students joined Birney when it added its International Studies program — a 10 percent increase.

Even bigger increases have pumped up enrollment at existing magnets, such as Fulton, Grant and Knox elementary schools, each of which added more than 70 students, increasing enrollment by 18, 19 and 16 percent respectively.

Not all were so lucky: Freese Elementary School, an arts magnet, lost 104 students, taking a 16 percent hit to its enrollment.

But the overall enrollment numbers listed in the Financial Operations report don’t square with the enrollment data released by the school district to media earlier this fall. The earlier report indicated that K-12 enrollment at all schools had dropped slightly this year compared to last, because it cited a higher number for last year’s K-12 enrollment (117,764) than the number cited in the Financial Operations report (117,052.)

What’s the difference? We’re waiting on a call from district number-crunchers to find out, but it’s Turkey Week so it may take a while.


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