Enrollment Continues To Edge Downward In Burbank Unified, Following a Multi-Year Trend

Burbank Unified School District office. (Photo By Ross Benson)

The Burbank Board of Education can expect student enrollment to continue to decline in coming years, according to a report presented at the last meeting of 2020 on Thursday, December 17.

Director of Student Services Stacy Cashman went over enrollment trends, looking at the past three years’ worth of data. She noted that neighboring school districts are also experiencing a decline in student population, which they also expect to continue in the future.

Burbank Unified had estimated an enrollment of 14,765 for 2020-21. Actual enrollment is 14,726, meaning 39 fewer students enrolled than anticipated.

“We didn’t see as many Kinder as we expected,” explained Cashman, who said the slight drop from the projected number is probably due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Burbank Unified had a total enrollment of 15,171 for the 2018-19, which was down 344 from the previous school year. Of those students, 13,842 were Burbank residents and 1329 were students on an interdistrict permit.

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For 2019-20, BUSD’s overall enrollment was 15,120, a decline of 50 students from the previous year. Of those, 13,758 were Burbank residents and 1362 were interdistrict permits.

For 2020-21, BUSD’s enrollment is 14,726, with 13,414 residents and 1312 interdistrict permits – a reduction of 394 students from the previous year.

“Other districts are seeing this same decline,” said Cashman.

For interdistrict permits, which comprise about 9% of current total enrollment, BUSD continues to experience an increase at the high school level year over year. Elementary and middle schools have marked a slight decline year over year for the past three years.

For 2020-21, BUSD issued 412 permits for elementary students, a decline of 29 from the previous year, and 307 for middle school students, a decline of 37. But high school permits increased by 16 to 593 for the year.

Cashman explained that the interdistrict permit program helps maintain consistent enrollment levels. BUSD only accepts students from other school districts if a parent or guardian works or has a business in Burbank and there is available space in school.

Residents are given priority, particularly at elementary schools. Most interdistrict permits for elementary students from outside the district are placed at Bret Harte, Providencia and George Washington Elementary Schools.

Some resident students request interdistrict permits from BUSD to attend other schools, which are primarily for other school districts such as Glendale Unified which offer dual immersion language programs for languages BUSD doesn’t offer. Thirty-seven students used that permit for ’20-21, a drop from 88 students from 2019-20.

Cashman also discussed elementary enrollment caps. While BUSD makes every effort to place residents at their home schools, some grades in some elementary schools can fill up early depending on class sizes, which vary from year to year. Capped students are down from 96 to 45 this current year. Those families will have priority when space becomes available at their home schools.

Board member Steve Ferguson expressed concern that if the recent enrollment trends continue, BUSD could be down 700 students in another three years.

“What are strategies to draw more students to the district?” he asked.

Cashman expects some numbers to bounce back once the district is able to return to in-person education, particularly for Kindergarten and first grade classes.

“We had a handful of parents who wanted to homeschool [for ’20-21] but they have to apply for a State affidavit for that and there’s some work there, so we didn’t have that many,” she said.

The video and complete agenda of the Burbank Board of Education meeting for December 17 can be found online here.

The Burbank Board of Education is comprised of President Steve Frintner, Vice President Charlene Tabet, Clerk Steve Ferguson and members Dr. Armond Aghakhanian and Dr. Emily Weisberg. More information on the Board can be found online on their webpage.