San Carlos Schools: Doors May Close for Out-of-District Families.

September 9, 2010

Fourth Grade Might Be End of the Road.

It seemed this was bound to happen… If you tried to enroll your child in the San Carlos School District for the first time this year, you found that the schools were pretty much packed to the rafters.   And it's not just kindergarten anymore — the chronic over-enrollment challenge at the elementary school level that the San Carlos School District Board has worked so hard to alleviate last year now seems to be spilling over to its two middle schools, and the Board now faces a challenge of ensuring that there will be sufficient space for students who live within the San Carlos School District boundaries.

According to this article in the Daily Journal, the San Carlos School District Board may consider closing the door to out-of-district families once their kids move beyond the elementary school level.   This means that after 4th grade, families of San Carlos school students who live outside the school district boundaries will need to find another option for middle school besides Tierra Linda or Central Middle School.   This decision would not affect the San Carlos Charter Learning Center (SCCLC) since it is a K-8 school.

Once You're In, You're In.

By law, once a student is accepted into a school, they must be allowed to complete all of the grades that are available in that school.  So under this proposal, out-of-district families will obviously not be displaced from the school they are currently attending.   But since the San Carlos School District is structured such that middle school starts at the 5th grade, and technically middle schools are different from the elementary schools (i.e., they're not K-8), the District is allowed to impose this restriction.

This decision will obviously not be a popular decision with the 70 or so families that it directly impacts.  And knowing the good folks at the School Board, they will do everything the can to accommodate these families down the road.  But this is really a sign of the times for San Carlos — the quality of our schools has always been a HUGE draw for families when they decide where to live.   And lately, the number of families with school-age children (or those planning to start families) has been definitely been on the uptick in San Carlos.  Combine that with the perennial revenue challenges, and it was only a matter of time before the breaking point was reached.

Board Meeting Tonight.

If you have questions, or if you're interested in hearing more about this topic,  be sure to attend the Board's regularly scheduled meeting tonight at 7PM at the Central Middle School library.

Posted in:


  1. Mark Olbert on September 9, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    A quick clarification, Chuck: while the District middle school enrollment is putting some strain on the system, I don’t see a risk of not being able to accommodate resident/in-District students.

    As always, it’s a matter of trade-offs. There is certainly physical space at the two middle schools to handle all the enrollment, including the out of district students. But do we want to expand classroom capacity to do that, since that would increase the student populations on both middle school campuses? Central and TL are each at around 600 students, as I recall, and the TL campus also is home to CLC, which has around 300 students of its own. While 600 – 900 students at a middle school is not at all unheard of within California, those figures, particularly the higher one, are large by recent San Carlos standards.

    Looked at more broadly, these are the problems of success. I don’t want to sound cavalier about it, but I’d much rather be dealing with having highly desirable schools which force us to think creatively about expanding capacity, or restricting out of district enrollment, than I would having undesirable schools requiring us to cut staff and program. I suspect as a realtor you would, too :).

    – Mark

  2. Chuck Gillooley on September 9, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the clarification. I agree with you 100% — as a Realtor and a homeowner in San Carlos, the quality of our school district has an immeasurable impact on my day-to-day life, and it’s absolutely imperative that this level of excellence is maintained. The quality of schools and the desirability of a community are forever joined at the hip. I applaud the Board for having the guts to make what has been a series of very tough decisions over the past year; first the elementary school boundary changes, and now tackling this issue. As I mentioned in the post, the Board always seems to find a way to accommodate everyone in the end.

    This is indeed a by-product of success and a strong indication of how much strain other school districts are feeling as well. One point I neglected to mention in the post was that this during the summer months, there seemed to be an inordinately high number of families with school age children that moved into San Carlos from out of the area, and their top priority for most was to get their kids into the San Carlos School District. I think that unforecasted surge in enrollment may have taken everyone a bit by surprise, since it’s virtually impossible to predict.

    Thanks again for weighing in..

  3. Carline on September 12, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    I hope kids from out of our district don’t get bumped. My kids go to Heather, which seems to be where all out-of-district kids attend here, and I think it has broadened their horizons greatly.

    My comment is that the two middle schools look pretty down-on-their-heels already. I had occasion to check out both Central and Tierra Linda over the weekend (for soccer) and was pretty dismayed by their rundown condition. What a disappointment for such esteemed schools to look so, well, awful.

    I’ve also heard that traffic is a nightmare particularly at Tierra Linda. I wonder if there is any chance of returning school bus service in light of this increased enrollment, as individual cars driving each day seems so inefficient and un-green.

  4. Joanne on September 13, 2010 at 12:29 am

    At the beginning of the school year, the Carlmont/Tierra Linda/ Charter school traffic becomes congested. If you’re at TL at 7:40 a.m., the traffic is minimal. At 8 a.m. it’s impossible. Same thing at end of the school day; get in early for pickup, get out with no problem. Come late; you’re stuck. Carpooling helps immensely. It’s really not bad and there’s no need for a school bus. It’s no different for Heather dropoff and pickup.

Leave a Comment