Dublin’s Rapid School Growth Offers Challenges and Need for Community Involvement
It has been said that statistics can be deceiving. In the next breath, they can also be quite revealing. With that said, let us examine the historical K-12 student enrollment data in the Dublin Unified School District (DUSD). In the ten year period between 1995 and 2005, student enrollment expanded from 3,647 to 4,904 – an increase of 34.4%. In a similar period between 2005 and 2015 (projected) the increase of students moved to 9,900 – representing a growth rate of 101.8%. Granted, these were two very different eras and the peak growth period represented a rapid home construction movement from Dublin Ranch eastward to Fallon Road and beyond.
But the growth has yielded a far more robust tax base for the City of Dublin and has also produced many more retail and entertainment avenues. From the theater district to the newly opening retail at Persimmon Place and to Fallon Gateway, the experience of living in Dublin has been greatly enhanced. However, this rapid growth has placed a strain on the town’s infrastructure – including an impact upon the districts’ schools. Anyone that has resided here in the last 10 years can articulate the changing traffic channels and/or how all of the schools seem to be so crowded.
So under this backdrop, there is an opportunity for added community involvement into how the school district will move forward while facing these challenges. The District Optimization Committee (DOC) has existed in various iterations over several years. The group was formed during the period of 2008-09 when California was facing a budgetary crisis and it was necessary to examine what academic/enrichment programs might be cut if the state entered into a worst case scenario. Subsequently, it was formalized last year to take a hard look at what enrollment growth vs. home construction could look like in Dublin for years to come.
OneDublin.org reached out to DUSD Senior Facilities Director Kim McNeely to gather her thoughts on this subject. Keep in mind that Ms. McNeely is subject to the limitations of how the State of CA funding formula has changed. But, we thought that her insights were fascinating.
OneDublin.org: As one that has actively participated in the District Optimization Committee (DOC), please cite how this has been a positive process for community members.
Kim McNeely: “The District Optimization Committee was a positive process for the community and staff. It was a great opportunity for district staff to share information and expertise and to hear community questions. Mostly, it was an opportunity for everyone to share ideas about something we all care deeply about.”
OneDublin.org: As a Facilities Master Plan is being developed for both the short and long term, please discuss why this is a vital process for our school district at this critical juncture.
McNeely: “The Facilities Master Plan is important to our district for several reasons. It will allow us to review the assumptions that are used to create a Facilities Master Plan like demographic data to identify the number of students we will need to serve. The condition of our campuses from an infrastructure and program perspective will need to be evaluated. The Facilities Master Plan process will also seek input on the goals and needs for our campuses from the campus staff and our community. The Facilities Master Plan assumptions are critical to identify options to meet the District’s facility needs and then to identify resources to accomplish our facility goals.”
OneDublin.org: Finally, for some long time residents and newcomers to Dublin, there is a rising perception that new home construction and student enrollment is being outpaced by the district’s ability to provide schools/classrooms. As a Senior Facilities Director, how would you respond to this feeling?
McNeeley: “Classroom space for students is critically important to our community and to the school district. The amount of growth and the pace of growth have created challenges that we are all feeling. The Board is moving forward with the Facilities Master Plan to identify the needs, solutions and resources needed to implement projects – which is exactly the right thing to do.”
This is also a highly complicated subject. Despite tremendous economic growth in CA, Governor Brown and his colleagues in Sacramento have resisted the opportunity to foster public school bonds for new school construction. This is partially due to the adherence of Proposition 98 which has hamstrung many high growth school districts. Furthermore, some school districts have been forced to utilize their previously approved bond monies to fund new construction – as was the case in Dublin with Amador Elementary School. This statistic is in concert with the fact that the City of Dublin has been limited to pursue only Level 2 fees that are contributed by local housing developers. This is a step below the maximum Level 3 fees that can be collected. The removal of the “third leg” to school capital development is what is haunting Dublin today.
To make matters worse, the newly adopted Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that administers statewide funds to school districts has resulted in a negative impact upon high performing school districts such as DUSD. So, what is left to deal with is the “optimization” of what this school district is facing. It will be necessary to work with what we have. The good news is that there is a collection of school administrators, certificated/classified staff, parents and community members that have been working very hard of the past year to add ideas and to provide oversight.
These issues and others have opened up the opportunity to gather additional members to the DOC. In short, the DOC has been charged with researching demographic changes within Dublin, to examine student populations at all school sites and to breed communication efforts throughout the community. Today, there are multiple opportunities to join the DOC. The deadline to apply for a position is September 18th @ 4:00 PM. The link to the application can be found here.
OneDublin.org would like to encourage community members to apply for this opportunity which may have a significant impact upon future growth plans relative to our young students. We would also like to thank Ms. McNeely for her contributions to the construct of this profile. The future of DUSD is ahead of all of us. We would encourage all of your to take an active part in its destination.