Capistrano Unified School District confronts enrollment drop and safety issues

CONCERN RAISED as student enrollment in the Capistrano Unified School District becomes alarming low. (Picket Fence Media)

Charlotte Yeskulsky | Head Editor

March 21, 2024

The Capistrano Unified School District, like many across the state, is grappling with a significant decline in student enrollment, according to Superintendent Chris Brown’s report at the recent Board of Trustees meeting on February 21. Over the past 15 years, the district has experienced a 20 percent decrease in student numbers, with a thousand students lost just in the past year.

Brown highlighted the district’s focus on managing its budget over the next three years amidst this declining enrollment trend. He pointed out various factors contributing to the budget challenges, including California’s overall trend of declining birth rates and emigration, particularly affecting coastal cities like those within the district. “In terms of our revenue from the state that equates to about 120 million less dollars the Capitol receives annually to run its programs,” says Brown.

CUSD BOARD MEETING where Superintendent Brown addressed many of the concerns floating around (CUSD).

The superintendent emphasized that declining enrollment has a direct impact on the district’s budget, translating to approximately $120 million less in annual revenue from the state. He discussed how the district managed to mitigate the effects of declining enrollment in the past, including increased school funding and COVID relief funds during the pandemic, but noted that these temporary solutions are no longer available.

Additionally, Brown expressed concerns about the current state budget, which has faced constraints compared to previous years, exacerbating the financial strain on the district. He assured stakeholders of the district’s commitment to transparency and proactive planning to navigate these budgetary challenges while striving for stability in the long term.

The superintendent underscored the importance of keeping the community informed about budget planning efforts amidst impending financial constraints. He highlighted the district’s status as one of Orange County’s largest employers, operating with an annual budget of approximately $700 million.

In addition to enrollment and budgetary concerns, community members raised issues regarding school safety during the meeting’s open comments session. Concerns about security vulnerabilities at Las Palmas Elementary School in San Clemente were voiced, urging the district to address perimeter safety and implement necessary security measures to ensure student safety on campus. As junior and former Las Palmas student Ava Peralta remarked, “The school is a big part of our community so I am happy to see them prioritize safety”. Parents and community members also emphasized the need for proactive safety measures, such as enhanced perimeter fencing and controlled access points, to mitigate security risks and prioritize student safety across district campuses. Retired law enforcement professionals and concerned citizens echoed these sentiments, advocating for comprehensive threat assessments and investment in security infrastructure to address safety concerns effectively. Junior Mia Lewis who also spent her elementary years at Las Palmas “felt safe in the surrounding area” and “couldn’t recall any alarming incidents” contrary to recent concerns.

As the district continues to deal with enrollment declines and safety challenges, stakeholders highlight the importance of proactive planning, transparent communication, and strategic investments to ensure the well-being and success of students and staff across all CUSD campuses.

About Charlotte Yeskulsky 11 Articles
Charlotte Yeskulsky is a Junior at San Clemente High School and is entering her first year as a writer for the Triton Times. She is excited to join the community of people involved as well as spread information about current events. She loves to support her school and is a member of both the varsity soccer and lacrosse teams. In her small amount of spare time, Charlotte enjoys hanging out with her friends and family as well as surfing after school.

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