La Jolla Cluster learns how 2020 Census count affects schools

U.S. Census Bureau’s Joanne Nguyen (center) addresses the La Jolla Cluster Association Oct. 17 at Muirlands Middle School.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

A representative from the U.S. Census Bureau addressed the Oct. 17 La Jolla Cluster Association meeting at Muirlands Middle School to encourage parents to fill out the 2020 Census. The La Jolla Cluster Association is comprised of principals, teachers and parents from La Jolla’s five public schools.

Bureau partnership specialist Joanne Nguyen explained: “Coming April 1, 2020, the Census is important because we only do this every 10 years. This one survey is a population count of the entire United States, and the government takes that count and divides more than $675 billion each year (for the next 10 years) among the 50 states, based on their population count.”

This means deciding how things like Congressional seats (California is at risk of losing two seats) and funding for road repairs are allocated.

There was a 73 percent response rate in 2010, and Nguyen noted: “Our goal is to increase that response rate. Anything is better than 73 percent, because it means more money for the state.” The Department of Education also stands to gain billions based on numbers generated through the Census.

Nguyen acknowledged concern over the count because: “especially with this current administration, there is more fear than ever before ... but this Census count is only nine questions, and citizenship is not one of them.”

She explained that on March 12, 2020, residents will receive a postcard in the mail with more Census details. For the first time, those who receive a postcard can fill out the Census online. Those who don’t respond will get a reminder postcard. From there, those that still don’t respond will receive the Census packet in the mail. If those aren’t mailed back, those residents will get a knock on the door by a Census worker.

Also at the Cluster meeting

Muirlands numbers down: Middle School principal Geof Martin expressed concern about Muirland’s decrease in enrollment and the potential spillover effect on La Jolla High. “We’re concerned because we’re down 72 students from last year and we lost a teacher this year,” he said. “Our eighth-grade class is our biggest at 328, but we have 252 sixth-graders now (that could make up the eighth-grade class in two years), and we’re projected to get 105 fewer students next year, based on numbers at local elementary schools.”

He noted when numbers decline, schools lose the ability to offer more programming and therefore become less competitive.

La Jolla High principal Charles Podhorsky added: “When you start building master schedules, decreases in enrollment can completely change what we can offer. We used to offer French, we no longer have French. We used to offer American Sign Language (ASL), we no longer offer ASL. We have our cornerstone biomedical program, and we would love to offer engineering.”

When this happens, other education alternatives (such as private and charter schools) become more inviting. Martin said he had data about where children in Muirlands neighborhoods are going to school, but would need to review it with District representatives.

Parents asked if there was a correlation between areas that have seen an influx in short-term rentals and those that are losing students to other schools. District board member Mike McQuary said that discussion is ongoing, and he would report findings to the board at future meetings.

Leadership chief: Chief of Leadership & Learning, Sofia Freire, oversees the district high schools. She introduced herself and said she assumed her post in July. Freire will return to Cluster meetings to explain district-wide issues as they arise.

Teen mental health film: The Cluster hopes to present “Screenagers Part 2,” sometime in January. “The best part about the film,” said parent Fran Shimp, “is that it focuses on what parents should be doing (to address anxiety) and how they should be talking to their children. We’re thinking of screening it for students, too, so then they can tell their parents they need to see it, because the parents who need it don’t always go.”

La Jolla Cluster Association will combine its November and December sessions, and meet 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5 at Muirlands Middle School, 1056 Nautilus St.