For past 25 years, high school enrollment on the decline

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Photo by Kate Kotlyar

Candice Anvari staff writer

Kate Kotlyar staff writer 

Over the past five years, Beverly Hills High School’s student population dropped from 1,600 students to 1,190 students. 

The predicted drop in enrollment at the high school for the following school year is 11 students, leaving 1,179 students. However, the drop in enrollment does not hinder the school’s funding because the Basic Aid policy states that districts are funded by local property taxes, instead of by average daily attendance 

Schooling

For the 2009-2010 school year, the district stopped allowing students from outside Beverly Hills to attend BHUSD schools, thus ending the permit program. With the permit program ending, the district’s funding source changed to Basic Aid. 

“When the permits stopped…there had to be a downsize when we changed the funding. So, there was a dramatic drop over a four year period as students graduated out,” Principal Mark Mead said. “When the permits stopped, they didn’t just kick the permit kids out, they let them finish. It was a three year period where there was a pretty predictable drop and it dropped pretty quickly.”

Under Basic Aid, the district lowered class sizes, but with that, curriculum offerings could decline as well. 

“Basic Aid districts are blessed and cursed. They’re blessed because they generally have more funding, and then they can have lower class sizes, which is actually really a good thing,” Assistant Superintendent of Business Services J. Wade Roach said. “But if the class sizes get really too low, then you’re not able to offer a lot of electives. At a certain point, a high school gets a little bit too small.” 

At BVMS, the reconfiguration increased the student population, which allowed for more course offerings–an example of what the high school could have with an increase in enrollment. 

“We’re proud of our school district and we want to make sure that every resident who has children in Beverly Hills feels comfortable and proud to send their children to our schools,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy said. “I think it’s really important that every family understands the kinds of programs we have to offer as well. Information about our comprehensive programs are slowly getting out there, so we’re starting to see a rise in our middle school enrollment because people are starting to see what we offer.”  

According to Roach, there are about 400 students who live in Beverly Hills who are not attending schools in BHUSD because they are attending private schools. The decision to attend private schools can begin at the preschool level, since the district does not dictate the functions and curriculum of the city-owned preschool program

“What happens a lot of the time is that the students in the private preschool start making friends, and then the parents start making friends, so the family decides to stick to private. I feel like if we can get our hands on the preschool, and not just kindergarten, then more students can start in the district, make friends, and continue in the district community,” Bregy said.  

Bregy would like to incorporate district teachers and the district’s curriculum into the preschool’s professional development because, as of right now, the city owns the resources, materials and coursework for the preschool. 

“We’ve noticed that many of the people that go to private school stay there because they’ve built an internal community that they like and works for them, so I think we should get them earlier on in a child’s education,” Bregy said. 

Further, Bregy received complaints from Beverly Hills families about their dislike of the construction at the high school, making them more inclined to attend private schools.  

“Some people tell us that the high school doesn’t look appealing from the curb and some people don’t want their child to be around all the construction,” Bregy said. “So, there are some families that have made the decision to wait [until construction is over] to enroll their children into our district.” 

However, the B1/B2 buildings are scheduled to open for the 2021 to 2022 school year. Mead and the Board hope that this will attract families back to the high school. 

“I got a feeling they’re going to start coming back. The front lawn is going to open up again and when that happens, it’s going to be hallelujah time,” Mead said. “Long story short, Beverly Hills High School is having more than just a facelift right now, it is going to be an incredible facility full of incredible students and incredible teachers, as we already have the core of what we need to be incredible.” 

Although COVID-19 allowed construction to progress, it contributed to some decline in enrollment, as students opted into homeschooling or transferred to other districts. 

“There’re a lot of people that quarantined or isolated in other places, like different counties or countries, so they decided to stay there and enroll in a different school district. Also, there are some kindergarten and first grade families that decided to home school their children because they did not want their children to attend Zoom all day,” Bregy said. “So, our numbers are lower in kindergarten and first grade because some parents have made the decision that they’re not going to enroll their children.” 

Housing & Population

Due to the growth of the elderly population in Beverly Hills, BHUSD experienced a natural decline in enrollment, as the elderly hold onto their properties–leaving less opportunity for young families to buy homes in the city. 

“We’re at a very interesting place with Beverly Hills right now because we have a lot of people who own their homes and their children have already gone through [school.] So, they’re just hanging onto their homes,” Bregy said.

According to the U.S. Census for Beverly Hills, the median value of owner-occupied housing units, from 2015 to 2019, in Beverly Hills is over $2,000,000. In comparison, the median value of owner-occupied housing units, from 2015 to 2019, in Los Angeles City is $636,000. For this reason, Bregy believes that younger families are more inclined to starting their first homes in Los Angeles.  

“Younger people who are moving into homes don’t normally move into a home in Beverly Hills. Beverly Hills is just not a common place to start a family because many young people normally have debt or they can’t afford to live in such a financially expensive place,” Bregy said. “The people who move here normally have a more established job, which helps cover the expenses.”

Also, Roach and Bregy believe that younger families with school-aged children “can’t afford” to live in areas such as Beverly Hills, so they tend to move to areas adjacent to Los Angeles, especially as a result of COVID-19

 “Declining enrollment does have to do with a lot of things, like, are people moving into Beverly Hills? If they’re moving in, do they have kids? Are they moving out of Beverly Hills? With everybody working from home, I think there are some people, not just in Beverly Hills, but everywhere, that are looking at where they live and wondering, ‘Well, if I’m working from home, do I need to live where I’m living?’” Mead said.

As a way to reach out to incoming families, BHUSD works with realtors to encourage families to send their children to one of the four schools in the district. 

“We have a fairly robust outreach program through our Student Services Department,” Roach said. “So, when new families move in, we have packets of information we give them, we encourage folks to come to our schools and we work with realtors so new families will know [if their] school is Hawthorne or [if their] school is Horace Mann.” 

Entertainment 

According to the U.S. Census, in Beverly Hills, the population ratio of the elderly to the young is in favor of the elder generation. About 20% of the Beverly Hills population is 18 and under, while 21.4% of people are 65 and older. 

“To be frank, Beverly Hills is not lacking [for older people] since most of the people that live here are pretty old and enjoy a more quiet life. The things here satisfy them,” sophomore Sima Arslan said. “But, the city can definitely improve for people that are younger, like having places more than just that one toast place that is open till 1 a.m., and by having more options of places to go to.” 

Similar to Arslan, junior Deven Yacobi spends most of his free time outside of Beverly Hills due to the lack of diverse entertainment. 

“All people do is either walk around, eat food, go hiking or hang out at people’s houses. Many people go outside Beverly to have fun, generally with friends. I think the city should have more events of sorts,” Yacobi said. “Of course at a time like this, it’s difficult, but when things resume we should have more public activities and fairs.”

Along with the lack of entertainment, Beverly Hills businesses, such as those on Rodeo Drive,  can also be pricey for students, thus catering to people with higher incomes.

“Beverly Hills is money-oriented. If you don’t want to spend money, all you can do is go for a walk. The business district, up on Rodeo Drive is obviously there for the more wealthy crowd, and that’s fine,” senior Marissa Kaniel said. “It’s still fun to go inside [stores,] but the reason I spend so much time out of Beverly Hills is because there are better options for shopping and amusement.” 

Although entertainment, housing and population are contributing factors to enrollment, Bregy believes that the district should focus on obtaining data about why students are choosing private schools over BHUSD in order to adhere to familial expectations. 

“There are a number of factors for why enrollment is declining,” Bregy said. “It’s really essential to understand why families are sending their children to private school when there is such an awesome public school district here. That information can help us understand areas in which we can improve.” 

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