Local News

School board to focus on South Davis enrollment issues

By From page A1 | March 06, 2012

Enrollment concerns at South Davis’ two elementary schools — Pioneer and Montgomery — will be the subject of a special school board meeting Thursday.

Trustees will gather at 7 p.m. at Harper Junior High School, 4000 E. Cowell Blvd., to hear a report from the South Davis Enrollment Committee, which was formed after a large group of parents raised concerns at a May 2011 board meeting about enrollment trends.

In the late 1990s, as new homes were built in South Davis, Pioneer became the most crowded elementary school in the Davis school district. Records show that enrollment peaked at 795 students in 2000-01, but there were weeks during that school year when as many as 820 students were on campus.

Davis voters approved a school facilities bond in May 2000, and the district quickly began building a second elementary school in South Davis. Montgomery School opened on a partial basis in 2001-02, with an enrollment of 107 students in grades K-1, while construction continued on the remainder of the campus.

Upon full buildout, Montgomery’s enrollment jumped to 430 students in grades K-6, including a K-3 strand of the district’s popular Spanish Immersion program. Enrollment peaked at 508 students in 2006-07.

Montgomery’s opening took enrollment pressure off of Pioneer, where 519 students attended in 2002-03.

But in recent years, Montgomery enrollment has ebbed to 407 students. And the South Davis Enrollment Committee’s report notes that “with declining enrollment, changing demographics, staff turnover and the placement of Montgomery in (federal) Program Improvement status (under the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind legislation), concerns have been raised.”

The committee report notes that Montgomery serves an area “primarily south of I-80 and west of the greenbelt that splits South Davis. (The school) is producing superior academic performance among a declining demographic group (white students). It is simultaneously managing the challenges of a growing population of children struggling against poverty, limited English proficiency and frequent family relocations. This group of children is not performing as well academically.”

The percentage of socioeconomically disadvantaged students enrolled at Montgomery over the past four years has significantly increased compared to other schools in the district, the report notes. During the same time, Pioneer has experienced the lowest percentage of socioeconomically disadvantaged students of all the elementary schools in Davis.

The result has been “deepening challenges in effectively engaging the community in fundraising and community-building activities,” the report notes.

“Many children at Montgomery are reflective of those typically found in the achievement gap nationally; particularly individual students triple-identified as low socioeconomic, Latino and English learners,” the report says.

Among the strategies that were suggested by the community and then evaluated: restructuring magnet programs (such as Spanish Immersion and GATE); moving magnet programs; instituting a dual-immersion program (Spanish and English); changing the Spanish Immersion structure at Montgomery; changing attendance boundaries and the number of transfer students; capping or eliminating magnet programs; adding new programs at Montgomery; splitting the enrollment (with all South Davis students in grades K-3 attending Montgomery, and all South Davis students in grades 4-6 attending Pioneer); and closing a school.

The report, written in both English and Spanish, as well as other agenda materials for Thursday’s meeting are available online at www.djusd.net.

“We hope to hear community input and also give the board some information and get clear direction from the board about what possible strategies they want us to explore,” Superintendent Winfred Roberson said. “And then we will bring back more information to the board at some future date.”

Added Associate Superintendent Clark Bryant, who worked with the committee, the meeting “will give the Board of Education the opportunity to become more deeply familiar with student achievement and enrollment demographics. … It will also be a time for the board to evaluate and digest the strategies identified through the process and provide district staff with direction on further investigation and work to support all students in South Davis.”

Since Thursday’s 7 p.m. meeting is being held at Harper Junior High (the destination for most South Davis students after they finish sixth grade at Montgomery or Pioneer),

No live coverage of Thursday’s meeting will be available, but a recording will air later on Davis cable Channel 17 and on the district website, www.djusd.net.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.

Jeff Hudson

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