Master facilities plan: Student enrollment shrinks for 32 schools | News

To date the Guam Department of Education has roughly 26,600 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade. This is a decrease from prior years, and it’s a trend that GDOE officials and HHF Planners foresee continuing.

Over the last two school years, student enrollment decreased steadily from about 30,000 students.

Enrollment at the Guam Department of Education’s 41 public schools was highlighted during a sneak peak of the Master Facilities Plan at a Safe and Healthy Schools Committee work session held March 8. How many students are enrolled at schools is one factor used to determine if campuses are adequately meeting the needs of the populations they serve, and whether capacity can meet these needs.

Dane Sjoblom, senior associate with Hawaii-based HHF Planners, told GDOE and Guam Education Board officials how enrollment has declined throughout the country in the last decade.

It’s the same on Guam, Sjoblom said.

The enrollment analysis presented took into account 39 GDOE schools; Jose Rios Middle School and Tiyan High School do not have full 10-year enrollment data.

The analysis showed 19 schools with a population decrease between 15% and 37%, and 13 schools with a decreasing population between 1% and 14%. Two schools saw a marginal change in enrollment between -0.9% and +0.9%, while 4 schools showed their student enrollment increased between 1% and 10%.

Only one school saw an increase of 10%; that campus is located in Dededo.

Sjoblom pointed out how it relates to village population changes.

“It’s interesting how dispersed this is. When we looked at the population change from the 2000 census it was pretty clear that there was a shift from the south to the north. In the past 10 years it’s a lot more dispersed that some areas are decreasing, other areas are increasing and not quite as clear a distribution as we saw previously,” Sjoblom said.

Student enrollment is considered in making decisions related to school districts, transportation, modernization, investments and redevelopment opportunities.

At this time, there are plans for a new central middle school and the potential for a couple of new pre-K through eighth grade facilities.

But, as GEB member Maria Gutierrez cautioned, community developments within villages must also be taken into consideration when planning five or even 10 years down the road.

She questioned whether HHF Planners in creating the Master Facilities Plan considered a 64-unit affordable housing development being built near P.C. Lujan Elementary School in Barrigada. Her concern centered around how the development would impact student enrollment at nearby schools, and capacity levels.

“I am very concerned about that because right now Untalan Middle School services students from Upper Tumon. If that can be taken into consideration before this master plan is finalized,” Gutierrez said. “We really need to look at this. I guess our issue here is we don’t have the personnel or expertise in construction development. I don’t know if that’s overlooked but I do keep track.”

Overall for the island, GDOE is projecting enrollment a downward trajectory. But Superintendent Jon Fernandez agreed with Gutierrez about the importance of understanding how student enrollment is impacted by future community development. He asked for further clarification from HHF Planners.

“We did look at the GHURA project a couple of months ago when it first came to our attention and certainly agreed that it will affect enrollment at the nearby schools. We can provide a finer grain of that in terms of household size, how many elementary kids per household, middle school and high school are generated,” said Tom Lee, HHF Planners president.

HHF Planners agreed to include a “rough order” magnitude of the impact on enrollment, but at the broader level he noted that the schools have had a decline in enrollment over the last 10 years.

“As you know, school-aged families, they are fewer and fewer as our population ages and what not. I think what it may be is that this fairly small development would generate if looking at 200 people with a three-person household it might be 10 to 20 children that would be coming from that development,” Lee said.

Fernandez said, “We might see ups and downs at the different schools due to the development but most likely if I am reading these projections correctly they are probably going to be coming from other schools on the island and we are going to see those numbers go down more than projected.”

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