After heralding a leveling in school enrollment this year, San Diego Unified staffers predict that fewer children will attend the city’s public schools next fall. The drops translate into smaller budgets — a worrisome note in what is expected to be an especially lean year for California schools.

Planners expect to lose roughly 500 students next fall, according to a report prepared for today’s school board meeting. The drop would overshadow last year’s gain of 294 students districtwide, including those attending charter schools — a gain the district attributes to newly converted K-8 schools, magnets, the opening of three new schools including the much-awaited Lincoln High School, and past superintendent Carl Cohn’s initiative to make schools more “family friendly.”

The forecasted drop was attributed to “overall historical trends,” which have included low birthrates and the flight of families from the region because of the cost of living.

Enrollment in non-charter schools in San Diego Unified has dropped continually since 2004, but slowed last year, when San Diego Unified experienced a 0.2 percent drop in non-charter enrollment. Enrollment trends differ across the city. Student numbers have declined in areas such as Mission Beach, Linda Vista and Encanto, but grown in wealthier areas such as La Jolla and Scripps Ranch.

According to the report, San Diego bucks the trends for large California school districts: Seven years ago, San Diego’s enrollment dropped while student numbers increased in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Fresno and Santa Ana school districts. This year, San Diego was the sole district of the five to experience an increase.


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