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La Canada Schools Register 1st Enrollment Gains in Decade

October 01, 1987|ESTHER SCHRADER | Times Staff Writer

Enrollment in La Canada public schools grew this year for the first time in more than a decade.

Attendance figures for the first day of classes showed enrollment of 3,101, an increase of 3.5% over last year.

All the growth occurred in the district's two elementary schools, which gained 135 pupils. La Canada High School enrollment fell by seven, and the district special education program declined by 23 students.

Enrollment has been rising at the elementary level for a few years, but had been more than offset by high-school declines. Attendance today is 40% lower than it was in 1974.

In 1979 the district closed one elementary school, Palm Crest Elementary, because of the decline. But recent growth has created crowding at the other two elementary schools, each built to accommodate 500 students. Enrollment has reached 750 at Paradise Canyon Elementary and 600 at La Canada Elementary.

The district has added portable classrooms to ease conditions this year and plans to reopen Palm Crest in fall 1988.

School officials and real estate brokers attribute the increase to an influx of dual-income families with young children.

"I really feel it's the older, more affluent couples who are moving here and having young children," Sue Atkinson, a real estate broker with Stevensen-Dilbeck Residential in La Canada, said.

The district estimates that La Canada schools could gain another 400 children by 1992. But mortgage interest rates, which made La Canada homes more affordable in recent years, are rising again and could cloud predictions of continued growth, said Voytek Dolinski, La Canada Unified School District director of curriculum.

If the enrollment holds through the school year, it will bring another $150,000 in state aid, Dolinski said. State aid is tied to attendance.

The money would be used to add at least one full-time and one part-time teacher to the La Canada High School staff, Dolinski said.

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