Housing Crunch Factors Into Declining School Enrollment: Experts

The Bay Area housing crunch also is impacting local schools. Young families are being priced out, and schools are feeling the pinch because fewer students means a loss in funding.

Education experts say there could be a number of factors in play: lower birth rates; immigration; and high housing costs.

If the pick-up line outside Ohlone Elementary on Monday was any indication, it would suggest enrollment has taken a hit.

"Definitely, there are families moving away," parent Shirin Zebarjadi said. "A lot of people get relocated by their work, or a lot of times they choose to want to go to other states where it’s not as expensive."

That so-called exodus could be one of the main reasons enrollment in the Palo Alto Unified School District has been deceasing. In a recent report by the district, elementary school enrollment has been on the decline for the past decade.

According to school board Vice President Todd Collins, first-grade enrollment has dropped almost 20 percent since 2011. Parents have noticed too.

"On a day to day level, I don’t think it affects us," Zebarjadi said. "But thinking about our community, about Palo Alto and about the rest of the country ... the fact that we have these disparities between people who have and people who don’t is something we need to be actively concerned about as citizens."

Ohlone Elementary even went so far as to reduce the number of classrooms in the past year. But district Superintendent Don Austin says it has nothing to do with enrollment.

"The decline is due to birth rates," Austin said in a statement. "The decline is consistent across most California communities and not a unique phenomenon in Palo Alto."

Regardless of the reason, some Palo Alto families see the bright side in having fewer students.

"I'm happy because my grandchild is here, and I want him to be in a small class," Panch Bharsthan said.

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