New BHS career courses highlighted
Benicia Unified School District’s chief business official went over the district’s decline in enrollment at Thursday’s Governing Board meeting.
Tim Rahill noted that BUSD has been experiencing a slight decrease in enrollment over the last few years, although prior to that enrollment numbers had been stable for a number of years.
“It was a little bit up in enrollment, a little bit down maybe within 10 students in some cases,” he said.
However, this year BUSD was anticipating 89 fewer students. When the 2017-18 school year actually began, there were actually 106 fewer students than the previous year.
Rahill said that enrollment numbers have been monitored every day since the start of school through monthly checks.
“We take a look at the first Monday enrollment count each month,” he said. “We started that in September, will do that in October, do that in November and that gives us kind of a monthly check on where we’re at in enrollment.”
Rahill said BUSD also follows trends at other school districts. Typically, enrollment tends to go up throughout the year and then dips as students move away or graduate early.
“Our enrollment does change from month to month, and we continue to keep tabs on that,” he said.
Rahill said BUSD would continue to work with the district’s principals and staff to dig deeper into why enrollment was declining.
“We just started reaching out to our technology department that works with our electronic PowerSchool enrollment and attendance system,” he said. “When a student leaves our schools, each school is required to put in a reason why.”
“As we dig a little bit deeper with our principals and the tech staff, we’ll be able to come back with some reports about why our students are leaving and take it from there.”
Trustee Stacy Holguin asked what numbers the state would use to adjust the budget.
“I know the first year, we had the hold harmless clause so our budget doesn’t get adjusted, but now that we’re in our second year our budget gets adjusted,” she said. “By what numerical factor will that be based on?”
Rahill said funding was based on attendance, not overall enrollment.
“Regardless if a student is sick or is out for any reason, we do not get credit for that student who is out for whatever reason that day,” he said.
Rahill said attendance would be taken through April 15, which is the state’s official cutoff date, although some programs are funded beyond that date.
“It’s important that we’re taking accurate attendance and reporting that accurately to the state,” he said.
In keeping with the hold harmless clause, Rahill said the district would look at the attendance through April 15 and compare it to the same period from the year before.
“We will see a reduction in funds this year because the hold harmless kind of postpones that reduction for a year,” he said.
Trustee Celeste Monnette asked about intradistrict transfer students. Rahill said the district would look at projections and accept intradistrict students months in advance. After the first week of school, staff would do outreach. He said that some intradistrict requests at the ninth-grade level could not be accommodated, but most Intradistrict Agreements (IDAs) were accepted.
Monnette opined that while BUSD would be an appealing district for people from other communities to send their kids to, it may be difficult for other districts to release their students. Deputy Superintendent Dr. Khushwinder Gill said it may be a spatial issue.
“We literally have been looking at every IDA,” she said. “Some IDAs we have, we do not have space in those specific levels. There’s certain grade levels, ninth grade is one example, we couldn’t accept. There were several who wanted to come over, but there was no space in ninth.”
Gill noted that other grade levels such as kindergarten and transitional kindergarten did have space, but no IDAs were received at those levels.
The district will continue to monitor student enrollment and make necessary adjustments to the budget.
In other business, Special Services Director Dr. Carolyn Patton read a proclamation recognizing the week of Sept. 10 through 16 as National Suicide Prevention Week. Patton noted that suicide was the second leading cause of death among teens and provided a link to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org) in an effort to get the community to notice the signs.
The board also highlighted the new Career Technical Education programs at Benicia High School and the new teachers hired to present instruction of them. Introduction to medical careers is being taught by Sonya Seslar, a registered nurse and a Benicia High graduate.
“I would have loved to have had this course as a high school student myself,” she said.
Seslar said the course— which introduces students to the health care industry— is working to teach them skills in leadership and critical thinking skills as well as knowledge of legal ethics, and she hopes to be able to provide CPR and AED certifications for the students.
The other two courses, construction and building trades and basic welding/automotive, are being taught by Steve Shields. He said one major project the students are working on is constructing a tiny home on the back of a trailer, and plans had been received from a company out of Colorado. Shields hopes that staff will be able to use it after it is complete.
The board will next meet on Thursday, Sept. 21.