The San Ramon Valley Unified School District board discussed the process of diverting students from their neighborhood schools and expected enrollment rates in the coming school year, at their regular meeting Tuesday evening.
According to staff, the 2018-19 school year has seen 414 fewer students enroll in district schools than the previous year. These numbers affect different grades in different ways but could result in fewer displacements for future students.
Elementary schools are expected to see the largest reduction in enrollment, with 460 fewer spots. Middle schools will see a reduction of 89 and alternative education sites are projected to have 52 fewer students enroll.
SRVUSD high schools are the only group expecting to see an increase in students compared to last year, with an expected increase of 177.
“Our school district has always made an effort to have a policy of neighborhood schools and it’s unfortunate when we have to use diversions,” board president Ken Mintz said at the meeting. “As (enrollment) decreases more we are hopefully going to see more openings for parents to be able to make more choices.”
Overall diversion placement rates for elementary-aged students have greatly decreased over the past decade, staff noted, but the past couple of years have seen a slight increase in the total number of students sent to non-neighboring schools. In 2018, the overall number of elementary-aged diversion students increased from 51 to 86 -- still a far cry from 2008's 314, but an increase nonetheless.
Some parents are opposed to the lack of choice they are given when it comes time to place a student in a diversion school site. Tricia Meyer, the mother of a student sent to Vista Grande Elementary School through the diversion process, was against the lack of consent given to parents in the process.
“I think the policy of diversion is contradictory to your stated priorities, forcing families to arrange transportation to faraway schools does not eliminate barriers but rather puts an undue burden on certain families without their consent,” Meyer told the board. “Sending students to schools that are not by their neighborhood does not promote a positive education experience but results in some children feeling left out and detached from their neighbors.”
Meyer added that her child is now happy at their school, but she still disagrees with the philosophy of diverting students away from their local school.
Staff says that when space becomes available at a resident school site, parents of diversion students are offered several options, including: take the available space at the resident school site as soon as possible, wait until the next year to attend the school, or remain at the diversion school.
In other business
* Wearing their red union colors, over 100 members and supporters of the San Ramon Valley Education Association attended the meeting to show support for their collective bargaining team, who began negotiations with the district on Monday.
After initial meetings with union representatives the district presented a salary proposal, which included a 2% on-schedule salary increase retroactively effective to July 1 of this year.
“We are here, we will be seen and we will be respected,” SRVEA vice president Laura Finco said in support of her bargaining team and fellow SRVEA members.
The district’s proposal includes a salary increase, increase in medical premiums and cash-in-lieu of medical, and statutory increases in contribution rates to employee retirement plans. District officials say these benefits will result in far more than 2% increases in overall compensation for employees.
“The district and the Board of Education believe that this proposal is fair and fiscally responsible, in that it prioritizes employees, maintains regionally competitive salaries and benefits so that we can continue to attract and retain highly qualified employees,” Superintendent Rick Schmitt said in a statement. “We look forward to our continued negotiations in hopes that mutually-agreed upon settlements are expeditiously and respectfully negotiated.”
* The board recognized the month of October as Dyslexia Awareness Month, in an effort to raise awareness for the condition that affects an estimated 15-20% of children and adults worldwide.
Board member Rachel Hurd said since the district has initiated a dyslexia think tank, the district’s understanding and approach of the condition has increased in a positive direction.
“We have expanded the view of our dyslexia think tank so that it is not so isolated. (We) pull it under our overall view of literacy acquisition for all kids, which I think is a really groundbreaking way to look at it,” Hurd said.