With the school year less than a month old, the revised Piedmont schools policy on the transfer of students from outside the district has already worked beyond expectations as far as filling empty desks in classrooms, PUSD Superintendent Randall Booker said this week.
When the new policy was discussed last spring as a way to reverse a trend of declining district enrollment, “We were hoping to bring in 15 students, and we were able to bring in 20, which is good,” Booker said. “It’s gone great.”
Thirteen of the 20 students are kindergarteners.
The latest tally shows that as of Sept. 5, the district has an enrollment of 2,564 students, which is 25 more than the projection on June 1.
The policy changes have helped the district’s bottom line, which is dependent on state funding that is based on a per-student formula. “Each kindergarten student generates approximately $8,500 per year in revenue from the state,” according to a district staff report on the policy.
When changes to the policy were discussed in May, it was projected that Piedmont would have a kindergarten enrollment of 150 students, higher than the 130 to 140 the district typically enrolls each summer. But the actual number was 113 students, which would have meant a further drop in the overall population, and a study “showed a possible cumulative loss across the district,” Booker said.“That was a big problem, considering the amount of money we could be losing,” he said.
The policy revisions set a priority for allowing grandchildren of current Piedmont residents to apply for enrollment, which resulted in five additional students. It also allowed, with less priority, applications from owners of split Oakland/Piedmont parcels, and students who live outside the district.
In all, there were 25-26 transfer applications, with acceptance based on the capacity of the different grade levels. Students were accepted for kindergarten, first, fifth, sixth and ninth grades. Second and third grades were already at the maximum under the district’s class size limits and would otherwise require incurring the cost of hiring an additional teacher. Students applying for those grades have been put on a waiting list.
“Of the 20 students that were enrolled over the summer via an interdistrict transfer, 5 are enrolled at Beach Elementary, 5 are enrolled at Havens Elementary, 8 are enrolled at Wildwood Elementary, 1 is enrolled at PMS, and 1 is enrolled at PHS,” according to a staff report.
Placing the students was akin to fitting puzzle pieces together, Booker said. Care was taken to place students based on existing class sizes, while maintaining an equitable gender balance, and spreading the new arrivals equally among district campuses. Siblings are put at the same campus where possible.
Piedmont property owners pay a substantial amount in taxes to maintain a desirable school system. Including families outside PUSD that aren’t assessed those taxes has made the issue of interdistrict transfers a touchy subject at times.
But Booker emphasized that “Having interdistrict students on our campuses is nothing new. If we had not made the change we would have had students coming in on Priority 3 and 4 (allowing transfers of children of district and city employees).”
The district priority list in order is as follows:
- Parents Constructing or Remodeling a Home
- High School Juniors and Seniors Who Have Moved Out of the District
- Children of Piedmont Unified School District Employees
- Children of the City of Piedmont Government Employees
- Children of the Piedmont Educational Foundation Director
- Children Residing on Calvert Court
- Residences on Approved Piedmont Split Parcel Properties
- Grand Parent – Grandchild of an Individual(s) Who Lives Within the Boundaries of PUSD (new addition to the policy)
- Approved Split Parcels with Oakland and Adjoining Minor Piedmont Parcel (new addition to the policy)
- All Other Applicants (new addition to the policy)
Of the 20 transfer students enrolled this summer, one was a child of a PUSD employee and one the child of a city employee. Five were residents’ grandchildren who live outside the district. The remainder remaining 13 were applicants from outside the district.
Booker said the added enrollment hasn’t involved any added costs “because we’ve been able to fit them in within our current structure.” In fact, the district needed to add a kindergarten teacher this year who would have had few students in the classroom if transfers hadn’t swelled the overall enrollment, Booker said.
“I would say no,” Booker said when asked if he had gotten any feedback from residents. “Once they are on our campus they’re our students, they’re part of our community.”
Overall, “I just think it’s working well. We’re grateful the students and families chose Piedmont Unified to educate their kids,” Booker said. “We look forward to a long relationship with our families.”