Changing demographics in Pasadena will likely lead to further drops in Pasadena Unified School District enrollment in coming years, a new forecast shows.
There are 14,004 students enrolled in PUSD for the school year 2023-2024.
Within six years that number could shrink by 26% to just 10, 246 enrolled students in 2029-2030, according to a new report by Davis Demographics, which provides comprehensive demographic analysis and long-range planning consulting services to school districts.
Davis Demographics representative Scott Torlucci told the PUSD board that the primary factor causing the district’s enrollment decrease is declining birth rates.
“Between 2005 and 2021 there has been a drop steadily in area births,” said Torlucci. “Future resident kindergarten population will be lower than pre-pandemic due to continued decrease in area births and aging population.”
According to the data presented by Davis Demographics, there were 2,770 area births in 2005, 2,788 area births in 2006 and 2,814 area births in 2007.
In 2019, the number of births was 1,977. In 2020, there were 1,802 births and in 2021, there were 1,901 births recorded in Pasadena.
Davis Demographics also reported that resident student population has declined annually for well over a decade and all trends point to a continued decline of the resident student population.
In the school year 2017-2018, there were 1,019 grade 12 resident students enrolled in the district. This number will likely drop to 794 in the school year 2029-2030, according to Davis Demographics.
Davis Demographics’ report also said families moving in and out of the district is also one of the factors driving the decline in enrollment.
“This is happening throughout California, throughout the country. We’re in a negative population trend. Without immigration we are going down, we would not have enough births to replace our population. This is happening throughout the United States,” said Torlucci.
PUSD board members expressed differing views about the data presented.
“I do think it’s incumbent upon all school boards to really reshape and look at what the district is going to look like in the future and where children are going to come from,” said board member Jennifer Hall Lee.
“Sometimes we look at our schools now with the 20th century mindset instead of 21st. There is no reason we can’t house homeless families on campuses. When campuses are close, I think it’s important to leverage that asset and make money from it.”
Board Member Patrick Cahalan said the district should consider the declining enrollment in planning for the future of district facilities.
“If we just spread the money out and spend it on all of our school sites, we are spending money on seats that are already empty now but definitely will be empty in 3 or 4 or 5, 8 years.”
“I do hope that everybody out there recognizes that when you have a very large group of people who all want everything that’s best for students and don’t have resources to give what’s best for all of those students, you have to make decisions about where to focus your energies,” said Cahalan.
“For me, it’s not a priority to spend money on empty seats. It’s really not.”
Board Member Yarma Velásquez said what is important today is to attract more students to enroll at PUSD sites.
“It’s important for us to attract kids in Pasadena that are not coming to Pasadena Unified and to keep students that come to PUSD throughout their entire education and when we talk about serving our students and our families, I think we have to focus on that.”