The Davis school board approved a resolution on Thursday night that initiates the process of selling the school district’s undeveloped 8.4-acre Grande property, a piece of land the district has owned for over 40 years.
The school board also received an update on the beginning of the new school year, and heard that enrollment appears to be up by about 100 students. The increase in enrollment, combined with a gradual reduction in class sizes, has created an intense demand for science classrooms at Davis High School, and occasional spot shortages of textbooks in certain classrooms at elementary schools.
Associate Superintendent Clark Bryant told the trustees that enrollment as of Thursday was running around 8,608 students — “up around 100 students from last year (at this time),” said Bryant — and somewhat higher than the school district’s enrollment projections. Bryant said the uptick in enrollment does not seem to be concentrated in any particular neighborhood, and represents more of a “general upswelling” across the district.
There was very little new home construction across Davis during the summer, so anecdotal evidence suggests that the rising enrollment is probably being driven by families with school-age children buying existing homes. The school district will probably see another small uptick in enrollment when new homes that are scheduled to be built in The Cannery subdivision (on the site of the old Hunt-Wesson tomato plant on Covell Boulevard.) are built and occupied — but those anticipated new homes won’t impact the school district’s enrollment this year.
Trustee Alan Fernandes mentioned “a second-grader who told me that she didn’t have a textbook yet.” Curriculum director Stephanie Gregson acknowledged that there had been a few more second-graders than second-grade textbooks during the first week of school, added that “textbooks were delivered to school sites today — that gap has been filled.”
Associate Superintendent Matt Best said that “Davis High School is packed to the brim” and that with the district gradually reducing class sizes — which were increased in recent years due to budget shortfalls brought on by the state budget crisis — there is a pinch on the high school’s science classrooms in particular. “Almost every science classroom is in use every period of the day,” Best said. School board president Gina Daleiden said she’d hear about this situation from teachers and parents, “and the need they expressed sounds pretty dire.” One alternative would be to purchase a “science portable” classroom that would expand the capacity of the campus.
Parents have been asking for smaller class sizes, and Best said class sizes are “better than they’ve been (in recent years)… but it will still be another year or two before we get back to where we were seven or eight years ago” when the state budget crisis began, triggering cuts in state funding for schools.
Elsewhere on the agenda, the school board approved two resolution relating to the sale of the Grande property, with little debate. Attorney Lisa Allred outlined a lengthy and complex process under which the property will first be offered to “statutory entities” (primarily public agencies), and then offered to the general public if no statutory entity makes an offer. The process is expected to conclude sometime in December. The minimum bid on the property will be $5.4 million — the school district originally acquired the property in 1971 for $57,757.50 — a sum that might make a 10-percent down payment on a typical Davis home today.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055