By Maureen Robertson
Declining enrollment, a trend in Ramona schools for at least the past decade, continues, with 5,894 students — 236 fewer than last year — in classes.
“It’s disappointing that we can’t say any longer that we represent 6,000 students,” Dan Lopez, school board president, said after Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann presented enrollment numbers during the board’s Sept. 19 meeting.
District records put enrollment at 7,271 students in the 2001-02 school year. Since then, the numbers have dropped steadily.
Enrollment is the key to school finances, with most of the district’s income based on it, said Ostermann. This year’s drop in enrollment will affect the district’s income next year, he noted.
“Kindergarten, that’s one place I always look,” he said, suggesting the declining enrollment trend may be leveling.
This year, 412 student are enrolled in transitional kindergarten and kindergarten, he said, compared to 426 last year and 422 in 2010-11.
“The economic indicators are the housing market is improving, houses are going on the market, and selling,” commented Trustee Dawn Perfect.
At the elementary level, the biggest drop in student population is at Hanson Elementary, which at 531 is 38 fewer than last year. Ramona Community’s Montessori program has 34 fewer students, James Dukes Elementary has 29 fewer students, and Mt. Woodson has 14 fewer.
Olive Peirce Middle School’s enrollment of 855 is 31 more than last year, but Ramona Community’s Montessori program has 21 fewer seventh- and eighth-graders and its Mountain Valley Academy seventh- and eighth-grade enrollment is 6 fewer than last year.
Ramona High School, which had 1,972 students in 2001-02, has a 2012-13 enrollment of 1,714 — 132 fewer than last year.
Montecito High’s enrollment of 134 students is 1 more than last year, with Mountain Valley Academy showing a drop of 7 students for a total of 121.
The enrollment figures are not official until Oct. 3, when the district sends its report to the state.
“Almost two-thirds of the school districts in the state of California are in declining enrollment,” Superintendent Robert Graeff said. “And it’s categorized by two things: the economic condition of California but also the aging of California.”
In addition, “when was the last house built in Ramona?” Graeff asked.