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Losses Add Up as Number of Students Declines

September 18, 1986|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

With the second week of classes drawing to a close, Westside school officials have already started counting heads and calculating how much money from the state they stand to gain or loose.

The results have been mixed.

The Beverly Hills and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified school districts predict that enrollments will drop again this year. But in the Culver City Unified School District, officials presented a brighter picture of stable enrollment.

Loss of 4,437

The steepest decline has been felt in Santa Monica-Malibu, where the number of students dropped from a high of 14,000 in the 1976-77 school year to 9,563 last year. School officials estimate that the number of students will reach a high of 9,418 this year.

For years school officials have been concerned about the decline because state funds are allocated on the basis of enrollment.

"The students bring dollars," said Leo Martucci, director of pupil services in the Santa Monica-Malibu district. "If you lose students, you lose teachers and you lose schools. They are all impacted by declining enrollment."

Martucci said that if the district still had the 4,437 in enrollment it has lost since 1976, it would have an additional $12 million in state funds and probably would have been able to avoid numerous layoffs and the closure of two schools.

A study commissioned last year by Santa Monica-Malibu found that the district was losing students because many families with young children could not afford housing in the district, Martucci said. The report predicted that the enrollment would continue to decline until the year 2000.

"When it comes time to set up a home here most families cannot afford it," he said.

The declining figures from Santa Monica-Malibu are in sharp contrast to gains in the neighboring Los Angeles Unified School District, which has grown by 50,000 students since 1981. The gains in Los Angeles have occurred in the central city and in East Los Angeles.

Elementary Increase

In Culver City, Assistant Supt. Ralph Villani said his district has been able to maintain its enrollment because of an increase in the elementary school population.

He said Culver City expects to have 4,522 students this year, a slight decline from the 4,577 of last year but up from the 4,509 of the year before that.

On the other hand, the Beverly Hills district has shown a steady decline since the 1979-80 school year when it hit an all-time high of 5,755 students, said Assistant Supt. Walther Puffer. The district projects that the enrollment will drop to 4,861 this year.

Puffer said the cost of housing is the reason for the decline in his district. "My guess is simply that with the cost of property and high rentals and leases in Beverly Hills, many families with school-age children simply cannot afford to move in. Another reason is that older people whose children have grown have decided to stay," he said.

Beverly Hills school officials have expressed hope that a new state law could help the district attract new students. The law would make it easier for parents to transfer their children out of the district near their homes to districts where they work.

If such an arrangement is agreeable to the neighboring Los Angeles district, Beverly Hills could admit 350 students and gain more than $1 million in additional state revenue without significantly increasing class sizees.

CHANGING SCHOOL ENROLLMENT

District '81-'82 '82-'83 '83-'84 '84-'85 '85-'86 Beverly Hills 5,479 5,337 5,129 5,059 4,980 Culver City 4,989 4,930 4,655 4,509 4,577 Santa Monica-Malibu 11,143 10,858 10,462 10,006 9,563 Los Angeles 543,791 550,127 556,865 565,570 578,777

District '86-'87* Beverly Hills 4,861 Culver City 4,522 Santa Monica-Malibu 9,418 Los Angeles 594,000

*Projected

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