In an era where school districts in the area are seeing declining enrollment, it appears as though the Oakdale Joint Unified School District is leveling out and staying more consistent.
OJUSD Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Marc Malone said that at this time last year, district enrollment numbers were at 5,305. Currently, the numbers are at 5,346, up 41 students.
Malone said that the numbers get “real solid” after Labor Day because some people still think school starts after Labor Day.
He reported that the district generally opens with a high number of students in August, then by October through mid-February they see a drop of approximately 100 students, then an increase takes place in the spring that lasts through the end of the school year. That final number may or may not get close to the original enrollment numbers from the start of the year. In the past five years, the numbers at the end of the school year have been lower than the start of the year ranging anywhere from one less student to 142 less. However, the district has been mostly growing.
“Really, we’re not shrinking… we’re holding steady,” Malone said. “…While we’re not experiencing the explosive growth, we’re not like other districts and experiencing declining enrollment.”
He added that some districts, like Modesto and Salida, are facing that “double-edged sword” of declining enrollment, which results in less ADA (average daily attendance) funds and budget cuts, too. Malone said that they don’t know what the economic climate will bring but that Oakdale’s enrollment probably won’t change too much, although there is an “ebb and flow” in any district.
“We’re confident that there won’t be an alarming decline at this time,” he said.
The school districts are seeing less money per student in ADA than in the past due to the state cuts. It was reported that in 2008-2009, OJUSD received $6,004 per student and for 2009-2010 the district is receiving $5,532 per student, a loss of approximately $472 each. It’s unknown what the state budget will bring for the 2010-2011 school year, which Malone said, makes it difficult to plan. It’s beneficial to do long-term planning but the district is stuck having to do quite a bit of year-to-year planning due to the unknowns of the budget.
Malone characterized the OJUSD as currently being in a maintenance or slow growth mode, which is desirable. From the 2001-2002 school year to the 2004-2005 school year, when the economy was healthy and housing was booming, OJUSD saw a jump of nearly 500 students in that time period — a rapid growth trend.
“We had growth that we knew we couldn’t sustain,” Malone said of the enrollment numbers at that time.
The enrollment numbers continued to climb more slowly after that, but they took a dip by about 35 students between the 2007-2008 school year and the 2008-2009 year.
Malone noted that there is more room for growth in Oakdale’s housing developments, which leads to more kids when the economy turns around. More students result in more ADA money, although there’s the possibility that the school districts could be working with less per student.
“Fortunately for us, we are a desirable school district… People want to come to us and people want to stay,” Malone added.