Declining Enrollment Plagues San Diego Unified

Student enrollment is on the decline in San Diego and could end up costing the region’s largest school district tens of millions of dollars, Voice of San Diego reports.

The latest data show 1,500 fewer K-12 students at SDUSD schools this year. Last year, enrollment was under 103,000 which is “7,700 fewer than just five years ago and 14,700 fewer than 10 years ago.” The district is expected to lose another 1,500 students in 2020-2021.

According to Voice of San Diego, pupil loss for this year alone could cost the district $15.6 million.

The publication combed through the data and made note of the following:

  • The most severely under-enrolled school was the K-12 Whittier School, which serves 53 students with special needs in Clairemont and was at 27 percent capacity. In 1999, the school had 969 students, state data shows.
  • The most under-enrolled traditional school was Alcott Elementary, occupying just 34 percent of its Clairemont Mesa campus with a mere 195 students. Back in 1997, the school had 575 students, state data shows.
  • The third-most under-enrolled San Diego Unified school overall was Memorial Preparatory for Scholars and Athletes, a Logan Heights middle school serving just 416 students on a campus with capacity for 1,146. Memorial had almost 1,900 students in 2003, according to state numbers. The school has long struggled to attract and retain students, and has been rebranded and re-envisioned more than once over the years, even converting to a charter school and back again. The campus is now in the midst of a rebuild to convert it to a K-12 campus, pushing out a separate charter school that had been sharing the space. (State law requires school districts to share unused space with charter schools.)
  • Four other district schools operated at less than 44 percent capacity: Kimbrough Elementary in Grant Hill, Lafayette Elementary in Clairemont, Montgomery Middle School in Linda Vista and Wilson Middle School in City Heights.

Some school officials blame gentrification.

“Many of our families are simply being priced out of the newer neighborhoods within the Mid-City corridor,” Wilson principal Dave Downey said.

Voice of San Diego has put together a school capacity and enrollment database showing which schools are suffering from the largest decline. View the database here