Low enrollment could affect electives, administration says

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Juliette Deutsch, co-editor-in-chief
Sophia Goldberg, staff writer
Natasha Dardashti, staff writer
Lauren Hannani, staff writer

Enrollment has dropped since 2010 from roughly 2,000 students to 1,593. Although solutions are being looked at for increasing the number of students enrolled, some electives and teachers may be cut in the process.

As of now, there is no guarantee that any elective will be cut. But, if low enrollment continues, some electives will be in jeopardy. However, principal David Jackson does not think that this is a prevailing issue.

“There are no elective cuts at this point in time today. We are about 1,700 kids, and we will wait to see how many kids we have next year,” Jackson said. “If enrollment goes down, it affects everything: how many teachers we have and what we can offer. But, until we see the actual enrollment and what [students] sign up for, I don’t have a clue what’s going to continue [or] not continue.”

Board of Education member Noah Margo states that the teachers will be affected most by the dropping enrollment. If the enrollment levels continues to decrease, teacher cuts will have to be made in classes with low enrollment.

“Lower enrollment only affects the district in as far as staffing, specifically overstaffing. We have required ratios of teachers to students. When enrollment drops and the numbers don’t support the staff, cuts must be made in order to keep the budget balanced,” Margo said.

Margo also believes that the enrollment drops may not be as big of a problem as students and parents make it out to be, and this is a sentiment shared by board member Lisa Korbatov.

“As a Basic Aid District, we are not funded by the state on a per child basis, average daily attendance or revenue limit district. We self-fund and that is essentially all the money we receive. If we have more students, we do not get more revenue,” Korbatov said. “Hence, I do not see declining enrollment as a negative; quite the contrary. If our district is to be compared to a pie, the pie won’t increase irrespective of the number of students feeding out of this pie. So the fact that our enrollment declined at BHHS signals to me that we have to build new state of the art buildings that can deliver a 21st century experience to our students. But be mindful that in terms of student population, ‘Less is more’.”

A major concern for Margo regarding the dropping enrollment seems to be the high cost of living in Beverly Hills and the number of families favoring religious private schools over Beverly.

“[The level of enrollment is dropping because of the] cost of housing in Beverly Hills. It is very difficult for new families to afford to live here. There is not much we can do about that,” Margo said. “On top of that, you have a multitude of families enrolling their kids in private schools for religious reasons. Once again, not much for us to do there either. It is the families that teeter between private and public schools that we want to emphatically get to enroll in our district.”

To add, Jackson is hopeful that the recent tours given to prospective students will potentially help the enrollment increase.

“The other option is the district can change its position and become an open-enrollment district, which is anybody up to a certain level that we set can enroll in the school. But right now I haven’t seen any plans to become an open-enrollment school,” Jackson said.

As an open-enrollment school, Beverly would allow a certain number of students living out of Beverly Hills to attend.

Korbatov states that the current state of the school grounds could be the potential reason for such low enrollment numbers, a problem that could be solved through upcoming construction plans to modernize the campus.

“BHHS is an old campus with buildings that are old and not ideal for 21st century learning. We do not have state of the art technology. We lack infrastructure to deliver to our students what can be found at a myriad of private schools citywide,” Korbatov said.

To learn more about the specific changes planned for the modernization of the school, click here.

Margo acknowledges that the parents of students currently enrolled in the district are recruiting Beverly Hills families to stay in the district and community instead of sending their kids to private schools in and around the city.

“Parents are reaching out to other parents and doing a respectful job selling them on the district. This, of course, is more effective in the lower grades, but I’ve heard word of mouth is spreading and we have had tremendously well-attended and successful high school tours this year,” Margo said. “Finally we need to stop talking about being the best and actually do it. Like they say, ‘If you build it, they will come.’” Margo said.

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