Like the rest of California’s schools, Santa Barbara County and Santa Barbara Unified report fewer students
Enrollment in California’s public schools has plunged to below 6 million students.
And declining enrollment is a trend seen in Santa Barbara as well, according to data from the California Department of Education and the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
Statewide enrollment in all schools sits at 5,892,240 for the 2021-2022 academic year, according to the CDE.
It’s the fifth year in a row statewide enrollment has declined, the department said, citing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and a national trend of declining enrollment.
Statewide enrollment in 2020-2021 was 6,000,523 students — meaning there was a decrease of nearly 110,000 students, or 1.8%, in the current academic year. Enrollment in 2019-2020 was 6,163,001 students, and 2018-2019 reported 6,186,278 students.
In Santa Barbara County, 67,137 students were enrolled in the 2021-2022 school year, a decrease from 67,470 students in 2020-2021 and 69,006 students in 2019-2020.
For the 2018-2019 academic year, 69,379 students were enrolled, and 69,752 students were enrolled for the 2017-2018 school year.
More specifically, 13,891 students were enrolled in the 2021-2022 school year in Santa Barbara Unified School District. Last year, 14,205 students were enrolled, and 14,538 students were enrolled in the district in 2019-2020.
“Emerging from the pandemic and the chaos that it created within school districts across the country, our focus is returning to student outcomes,” Dr. Hilda Maldonado, superintendent of the Santa Barbara Unified School District, said in a statement to the News-Press. “We feel that student engagement at all levels will not only aid in stabilizing enrollment, but also put a spotlight on the rigorous and inclusive curriculum that Santa Barbara Unified others.”
Dos Pueblos High School bucked the trend, however. It reported 2,020 students enrolled in the 2021-2022 academic year, up from 2,018 students in 2020-2021, 2,005 students in 2019-2020 and 1,988 students in the 2018-2019 school year.
Santa Barbara High School gained 37 students between the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years, but enrollment has declined since. The school reported 2,178 students enrolled for the 2021-2022 academic year.
San Marcos High School had 1,998 students enrolled for the current academic year, down from 2,028 students in 2020-2021.
Goleta Valley Junior High had 744 students enrolled for the 2021-2022 school year, down from 761 in 2020-2021 and 776 in 2019-2020.
Cleveland Elementary had 273 students enrolled in the current school year, down from 283 in 2020-2021 and 316 in 2019-2020.
McKinley Elementary had 244 students enrolled in the current academic year, down from 272 in 2020-2021 and 312 in 2019-2020.
Monroe Elementary had 328 students enrolled in the 2021-2022 school year, down from 368 students in 2020-2021 and 402 students in 2019-2020.
Washington Elementary had 537 students enrolled in the 2021-2022 academic year, down from 561 in 2020-2021 and 600 in 2019-2020.
The Santa Barbara Unified School District found that slightly more than 50% of the students who left during the 2020-2021 academic year cited a move to another public school district in California as the reason.
Other top reasons included a move to a private school in California or another public school outside of the state, a move to a foreign country or medical reasons.
One student died during that academic year, and 16 were considered to be truant with a next location unknown.
Most of the students who left the district (333) were in elementary school followed by senior high (270).
Statewide, the largest grade-level decreases in the enrollment are found in grades one, four, seven and nine, according to CDE.
The statewide data showed the sharpest decline in enrollment from the previous academic year to 2021-2022 was in white students at 4.9%. Black students declined 3.6%, Asian students dropped 1.9%, and Hispanic and Latino students decreased 0.9%.
However, student groups with no race reported increased by 18.3%, and students who identified as more than one race increased by 1.7%.
Gov. Gavin Newsom sought to mitigate the economic impact schools could face due to declining enrollment in his budget proposal earlier this year. Districts are able to base funding on attendance in the current year, prior year or an average of the past three years.
And in the Legislature, a bill from Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, which would determine supplemental funding for K-12 schools based on the daily average of student enrollment numbers, is awaiting a Committee on Education hearing.
“We are currently using an outdated system that only considers student attendance,” Sen. Portantino said when introducing the bill earlier this year. “Now is the perfect time to implement structural reforms that will benefit every school district in California.
“The pandemic will have long-lasting impacts on student achievement and mental health. It is important more than ever that we ensure students are in school and are receiving the support they need to learn and thrive.”