On Shoreline Unified's facilities concerns

08/08/2018

While reaching out about potential facilities improvements and presenting a new bond measure to voters in the Shoreline Unified school District, some community members have asked about our recent enrollment. I wanted to provide some answers and additional clarity about enrollment and facilities needs.

Enrollment decreased from the mid-’90s until recent years as the population of our district changed. Two decades ago, we had more than 800 students; since 2012, we have been just above 500. This decline has to do with local demographics. To mitigate the reduction, we implemented the district of choice program, which allows some students from outside Shoreline to attend our schools while providing additional funding to help us educate them and helping to stabilize our operating budget.

Most importantly, our current enrollment across all five of our campuses allows us to provide the education our children deserve. Right now, we have the perfect number of students to create the ideal classroom environment throughout the district. Of last year’s 29 graduating high school seniors, 16 will attend four-year colleges. Our schools have a 15:1 student to teacher ratio. A smaller student to teacher ratio would not be a financial option as it would reduce funding from the state and would force us to reduce important programs. A larger student-teacher ratio would arguably diminish the high quality of education we provide. As such, we plan to stay at this level of enrollment for the foreseeable future.

Aside from demographic trends, the weather on the coast is unforgiving, and our homes and other buildings bear the brunt. Indeed, Shoreline’s classrooms and facilities age much more quickly than schools in most other parts of the state and many of our campuses have older buildings to begin with.

One idea raised in response to perceived enrollment declines is to close Bodega Bay and Inverness Schools. The board has entertained it over the years, but has not pursued it for a variety of reasons. First, we are proud of the education provided at all of our five campuses. Second, neither Bodega Bay nor Inverness have considerable facilities needs. One portable needs to be replaced at Bodega Bay for a pre-school program (which will hopefully increase enrollment there) and Inverness needs minor repairs. The vast majority of the funding we are seeking is for West Marin and Tomales campuses.

Closing a school is also a time-consuming, fractious, oftentimes multi-year process. Inevitably some would prefer both campuses to stay open, and Bodega Bay is our only school in Sonoma County. When we last considered it, the vast majority of our community was opposed to even considering closures. But even if we were to take that initial step, the legal procedure required to sell a school is long and onerous and includes offering it to other potential buyers like charter schools prior to putting it on the market. The presence of a non-district school in either of these communities would likely create a swell of other challenges for the district. Were they actually to sell, the funds generated would most likely be insufficient for us to accomplish more than a single small project.

So just as the district and the greater Shoreline community have done together for decades, we are working hard to understand our current facilities needs, anticipate repairs that may become necessary in the foreseeable future and determine which improvements would further enhance the excellent education we provide. This is why we are presenting a new bond measure to voters. Of course, please call me if you’d like to discuss either our enrollment or facilities, or anything else. I can be reached at (707) 878.2266 or bob.raines@shorelineunified.org

 

Bob Raines is superintendent of Shoreline Unified School District.