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Oakland Unified School District

Big enrollment drop: OUSD starts school year with 600 fewer students

on September 15, 2022

For the fifth consecutive school year, enrollment is down in the Oakland Unified School District, the administration told the school board at its meeting Wednesday. 

Though students are still enrolling, the population is at 33,762, a loss of more than 600 students. As a result, the district will see a decrease in the amount of money it receives from the state. 

The news did not surprise some community members at the meeting, who said the board’s decision in February to close seven schools, including two at the end of the 2021-22 school year, prompted many parents to put their children in nearby charter schools. 

“Our communities demand and deserve neighborhood schools,” said parent Meghan Langston. “Instead, enrollment has gone down and attrition rates have skyrocketed. These closures do not end the problem. OUSD should invest resources into our schools to make them desirable, instead of opening charter schools in their place.” 

Langston asked what enrollment will look like when the board’s full plan, which includes five more school closures and several mergers, is implemented at the end of this school year.  

In October, OUSD will finalize the enrollment figure that it will use for projections in the next school year. 

Teachers union reps Mark Airgood and Tania Kappner noted that at some schools, the issue isn’t enrollment but attendance, which factors heavily into the state’s formula for school funding. Lower daily attendance, like lower enrollment, means less money to OUSD. 

At Sojourner Truth Independent Study where Airgood teaches, for example, enrollment is high, but there is no attendance clerk to make sure students are coming to school. 

“We do our regular attendance, like all teachers, plus a state attendance that funding is partially determined on,” Airgood said. “We have not had an attendance clerk all of this year, and for Sojourner Truth not to have one is just not viable.”

OUSD has struggled with attendance since the pandemic. Nearly 18% of its students were chronically absent in the last school year — more than twice the percentage of chronically absent students in 2018-19, district data shows. And this summer, the district cut its five network attendance liaisons whose sole job was to keep kids coming to school. The district replaced them with what it sees as a more efficient model — six support specialists, who deal with educational, behavioral, social-emotional and attendance issues districtwide.

In projecting the 45-day average daily attendance, newly appointed Chief Financial Officer DeCarlos Kaigler said the district should expect about $9 million more from the state than it had anticipated. 

The district also is on better financial ground at the start of the school year, Chief Business Officer Lisa Grant-Dawson reported. Its unrestricted general fund is more stable, she said, with over $47 million this year compared to about $10 million last year. 

The story was published in collaboration with The Oaklandside.

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