Enrollment up at AUSD, down at Atascadero High School

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ATASCADERO — Within the next month, Atascadero Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Jacki Martin will be analyzing an increase of 75 students since the beginning of the school year. She will be developing a budget with the enrollment numbers in mind.

“The numbers are fantastic!” Martin said, noting that official enrollment numbers are always calibrated the first week of October. “I’ve been here almost 15 years now… and I can’t recall a time when we’ve actually grown after Winter Break. That rarely happens. As a matter of fact to even grow at the starting of the school year is phenomenal,” she said.

According to official numbers provided by Martin, total AUSD enrollment was at 4,632 in 2016-17. For this year the number has gone up to 4,676 students as of October, an increase of 44 students over the course of a year, however, as of January 22, the number has gone up to 4,707, meaning the enrollment total has gone up 75 students.

The increase in students has primarily taken place at Santa Rosa Academic Academy. Santa Rosa took in 37 new students between October 2017 and Jan. 22 of this year — most students being kindergarteners and first-graders. She mentioned the last time (going back as far as 2001) that AUSD grew was in 2009-10 when the district grew by 24 students and again in 2010-11 when AUSD grew by five students.

Martin said the new housing complex that brought in new families to Santa Rosa’s district boundary may be the reason for the increase.

The School Board recognized Santa Rosa Academic Academy staff Nikki Hutchison and Eddy Grace for the Core Value of Excellence at the last school board meeting for their exceptional efforts in welcoming new families to the Santa Rosa community.

“Clearly with Santa Rosa and our district staff, the positive customer service is making a very strong first impression,” said Tom Butler, AUSD Superintendent. “I’m very pleased with our staff and the school district.”

Butler’s said the increase in overall enrollment could be a mixture of his staff’s positive efforts, such as the welcoming committee at Santa Rosa, as well as email blast communications, good presence in local media, promotional efforts, more course offerings, more attractive facilities offering ‘curb appeal’ and outreach.

“There are certain things that we can control about how we do business,” Butler said. “We didn’t build the building, but we can control certain aspects about attracting students into our district.”

Martin mentioned much growth at Atascadero Middle School as well. In the 2016-17 year enrollment was at 764. By Jan. 22, enrollment was 930 (914 at the October census), a 166 student increase.

Atascadero High School, however, has seen a decrease in enrollment. Martin reported enrollment at 1,334 last year. This year the number of students decreased by 37 students to 1,297 in January (1,328 at the October census). AUSD had projected 1,388 students in the July 1 budget, a difference of 91 students the board had hoped for.

Trustee George Shoemaker expressed concern over the projected decline at the last school board meeting, asking the reason why the high school enrollment has decline significantly, other than students possibly moving over to Paloma Creek High School or the ACE program.

Martin said she would look into the reason why, explaining that the decrease in enrollment at the high school could be a class “bubble” going through.

“We did project that they would be down at the high school,” Martin said, adding that though she doesn’t know where exactly the twelfth-graders go (dropping out, transferring or otherwise), but she said the district usually sees a declining trend in twelfth-grade students at the start of every school year.

You may contact reporter Beth Giuffre at [email protected] for questions and/or feedback.

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