The Long Beach Unified School District's Board of Education will re-examine the district's Facility Master Plan in the coming months in light of shrinking enrollment, state budget cuts and new technology requirements.
In 2008, the board adopted a long-range plan for school building and renovation following extensive public input. Newly projected enrollment numbers, reductions in state funding, and demographic shifts make it necessary to reconsider some aspects of the plan.
The board is expected to review the number of small high schools that will be needed and ways to address a potential influx, in some parts of Long Beach, of young children entering school in the next five years.
Overall district enrollment is expected to continue declining, but not as sharply as 2008 projections originally showed. LBUSD has roughly 80,000 students, and that number may drop to 77,000 by 2017. The school district now serves about 13,000 fewer students than ten years ago, a 14 percent decrease. These numbers reflect a statewide trend of declining enrollment during the last decade.
The most significant enrollment declines in the school district occurred in elementary grades (K-5), which saw a decrease of about 9,300 students, or a 20 percent reduction since 2002. Middle school (6-8) enrollment declined by approximately 3,000 students, or 18 percent, while high school (9-12) enrollment dropped by 500 students, or 2 percent. Current projections show an additional loss of 1,400 students in high school by 2015-16.
Budget reductions have forced school busing cuts, which means more students are likely to attend their neighborhood schools in the future, according to projections.
Because Long Beach Unified still has some of the largest high schools in the state, with many campuses exceeding 4,000 students, the school district has remained committed to creating specialized, small high schools (with about 1,000 or fewer students) to help create pathways to careers and higher education in the most promising employment fields.
Technology requirements are also driving changes, such as wireless and computer lab upgrades for all schools to meet the state's online assessments (standardized testing) deadline by the 2014-15 school year.
"We will present to the school board some revised recommendations regarding where we need to remove outdated portable classrooms, renovate or build new schools," said Carri Matsumoto, executive director of Facilities Development and Planning. "Because two-thirds of our school buildings are more than 50 years old, we need major renovations, and in some cases it makes more economic sense to rebuild rather than repair. At the same time, we continue to design schools with flexible classrooms and other facilities that will accommodate future population and instructional program changes.
"Throughout this review process, we will remain mindful of the feedback we received from the community. This includes ensuring we have safe schools, and high schools that prepare students for college and careers. In revising the facility plan, our goal is to create the kind of educational environments that enable students to reach their full potential," Matsumoto said.