Smith Brothers Restaurants
HomeSchools & YouthDistrict Reports Modest Enrollment Dip

District Reports Modest Enrollment Dip

Many housekeeping measures were at the ready during South Pasadena School District Board of Education’s first meeting of the year, but among the key items presented at the Jan. 16 gathering was the Census Day Enrollment Report.
District Superintendent Geoff Yantz provided the rundown, which revealed a total of 4,686 students were enrolled in SPUSD schools on Census Day, Oct. 4, 2023.
“All in all, enrollment at this time is in decline and we see it continuing to be in slow decline in future years,” Yantz said. “When it comes to development, we can absorb it to a certain extent, and I think we are as prepared as we can be facility-wise.”
Census Day is an annual process in which the state collects all of the district’s data as it relates to enrollment and demographics.
Yantz explained that enrollment is the principal indicator for funding for school operations and the district’s annual budget.
“As enrollments ebb and flow, so do the budgets and the dollars and cents the state provides us,” Yantz said.
Yantz used 2019 enrollment numbers as a reference to the compare the present-day count since the enrollment tally peaked that year at 4,860 students.
But despite the dip in numbers, Yantz said SPUSD is in better shape than most districts in the region.
“Some of the enrollment declines that we’re seeing in other communities is far steeper,” he said.
Board member Zahir Robb noted that the enrollment drop could also be attributed to a national decline in birthrates, to which Yantz added that residents moving out of California have affected enrollment numbers as well, but highlighted that SPUSD is still a “destination district” for many families.
Noted Robb, “It seems like we’re more on trend and there’s less of the instability we’re seeing from neighboring districts, in terms of competition or just overall decline in enrollment or absentees.”
Enrollment numbers increased at two of the three elementary schools, which Yantz attributed to the addition of transitional kindergarten classes.
“That is keeping us from a decline to about 300 students,” Yantz said.
The middle school and high school numbers also enjoyed a bump from the year prior.
Marengo Elementary totaled 781 students last year, the most in a 20-year span that Yantz highlighted in the presentation. The number is up from 756 last year and from its last peak of 773 in 2019.
Monterey Hills enrollment reached 584 students in 2023, an increase from 583 from 2022, but still lower than the 2019 high of 696.
Arroyo Vista experienced a decline in enrollment with 698 last year, a drop from 723 in 2022.
South Pasadena Middle School jumped to 1,099 students in 2023, a noticeable hike from 1,086 from 2022, but still off the 2019 mark of 1,213 students.
South Pasadena High School also enjoyed an enrollment bump, totaling 1,493 in 2023 compared to 1,477 in 2022, and 1,427 in 2019 when overall enrollment peaked. However, Yantz said that number is attributed to the “bubble” from the middle school group.
“The high school will peak out this year or next year. It will have a bit more, maybe another 20 or 25 students, and then after about a year or two, it will begin to decline each year thereafter because the middle school cohorts will reach into those grade levels,” Yantz said. “On top of that, we have larger graduating classes than we do have incoming kindergarten classes.”

The Board also explored ways to expand the community use of school facilities to more groups.
The discussion centered around Board Policy 1330, which was adopted in 2016 and allows the Board to authorize the use of school facilities by district residents and community groups for purposes specified in the Civic Center Act, as long as it does not interfere with school activities or other school-related uses.
The policy also grants the Board to adopt a comprehensive schedule of fees to be charged for community use for school facilities and grounds.
The discussion surfaced after members of the South Pasadena Water Polo Club were denied access to the high school pool in favor of the Rose Bowl water polo team, according to speakers during public comment, which included parents, players and one coach. The issue was also presented to the Board during the Dec. 12 meeting.
“We’re a little frustrated that we have been stonewalled on this issue and we’d like the Board to give some guidance to the athletic department and the administration to find a way to give us two to three days a week,” one speaker said.
District officials said members of the Rose Bowl water polo team began using SPUSD facilities after the South Pasadena Water Polo Club dissolved in 2018. Speakers said the Rose Bowl group was getting preferential treatment for their use of the South Pasadena High School pool, and other groups were either getting little to no access at all to the facility. Yantz noted that the South Pasadena Sea Tigers was the other group consistently using the high school pool.
Samuel Whitman, a junior at South Pasadena High and a member of the SPHS boys’ water polo team, went further, accusing coaching staff and athletic officials of unprofessionalism. One speaker said the school’s athletic director called the South Pasadena Water Polo Club members “Rose Bowl rejects.”
“While our own water polo club gets ignored by our own high school by trying to get this pool, the Rose Bowl is getting free and uncontested use of the pool as well as getting free advertisement to all of the kids joining our water polo program,” Whitman said.
Though Board President Karissa Adams sympathized with unforgiving efforts to book facilities for such activities, she said she believes the entire SPUSD student body needs to be considered in any modifications to the Board policy.
“Any decision that’s made to the use of one facility opens a whole window for all school facilities and I think that there’s a lot of implications to all that goes into that when we modify that policy,” Adams said.
Robb highlighted concerns about what groups would be permitted to use school facilities if officials decide to move forward with expanding access. Robb brought up a hyphothetical: If someone wants to start a soccer club full of South Pasadena children, would they take precedent over an area AYSO group that has children from neighboring cities?
“If we start to open up our facilities to broad use, who is managing said organizations,” Robb said. “Who’s looking at permits? If there are residency requirements, who’s validating?”
On top of potentially endless paperwork and possible liability issues, other Board members added that expanded use would require additional staffing.
“Each individual group that we start to partner with becomes complicated,” Robb said. “I don’t know how to resolve the situation, per se, but I do see the complications the broader we start to move in that direction.”
Yantz highlighted one city and its district that expanded facility access to other community groups. A number of complications surfaced, such as proof of residency, and teams that manipulated their rosters to show they had a higher percentage of residents than another team.
“It became a real bad situation,” Yantz said.
Though no action was taken on the Board policy for facilities use, district officials did not indicate a change would come any time soon, considering the mounting complications.
“Currently, with regards to this specific situation, you looked at the options available and our current partnership with the Rose Bowl is good for the district and the community even if we can’t compare one group to the other,” Adams said. “Currently, I feel like the policy as it stands is working and is beneficial.”

First published in the January 19 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Most Popular

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]