The Bar-On Brief: Cupertino and Lynbrook’s problems may soon be ours as well

Board’s vote a good first step, but the next step matters more

By Shauli Bar-On, Columnist

The Bar-On Brief: a weekly column
The Bar-On Brief: a weekly column

School attendance boundaries? Imagine they didn’t exist. Imagine you had the option of enrolling in any FUHSD school.

This is not going to happen next year, but it very well could happen in the future due to the precedents made in last week’s district board vote regarding Lynbrook and Cupertino High.

First, some background. Everybody knows that our district is growing. Enrollment projections consultants have projected huge growths for all schools in the next few years. That’s why our school enacted measure B, to build more classrooms and facilities.

But Lynbrook’s enrollment is not expected to grow. In fact, Lynbrook’s enrollment is projected to decrease. Cupertino, on the other hand, is expected to be the largest school in the district in a few years.

What’s the problem with declining enrollment? Well first of all, if a school loses students, it cannot offer certain classes. It will need to make budget cuts that will ultimately impede academic quality.

In addition, it just doesn’t make sense for one school to have 2,400 students while the neighboring school, very accessible to the community of the larger school, has a mere 1,600.

Lynbrook’s enrollment is projected to decrease, according to the FUHSD

Now, the easiest way to increase a student population is by changing the attendance borders — increasing Lynbrook’s and decreasing Cupertino’s. The community has clearly expressed that it will not agree to such a quick, drastic change at the moment, and the board did not even consider voting on such an option in a Jan. 9 meeting.

The proposed Miller Plan was met with too much resistance and was not voted on by the board

Instead, the “open-enrollment” concept was presented. Originally, the debate focused around the John Mise Plan. This plan would permit a select number of students in the John Mise Park area that would otherwise attend Cupertino to have the option of enrolling at either Cupertino or Lynbrook.

Again, it was met with too much resistance, and the issue did not have enough support to be voted on.

The plan that was approved last week was the Miller Plan. Same idea as the John Mise plan — students attending Joaquin Miller Middle School would have the option to enroll in either Cupertino or Lynbrook.

The Miller Plan does not violate the FUHSD Board Policy. Policy #5116 explains that open enrollment policies can be adopted “when a district school is under capacity.”

In regards to the Miller Plan, we’re talking a max of about 75 kids that would transfer from Cupertino to Lynbrook– not enough to fix the problem. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea.

But it all depends on the next step. The Miller Plan can be a prerequisite to one of two things:

Either the school  attendance borders will be altered to increase Lynbrook’s enrollment — the better opinion — or, as the board “slightly considered,” it will allow any student in the district to open enroll into Lynbrook

If such a policy is adopted for Lynbrook, it will set a dangerous precedent, sparking debates to make the entire district one big open enrollment party — something that would be a mess for everyone — housing prices, traffic problems, lack of student diversity and the further divisions in high school “specialties.”

Certain groups of students, those of similar ethnicities, religious backgrounds and social classes, would cluster together in different schools. Do we really want such divisions?

One school would be the better athletics school, for example, while another school would perhaps excel in mathematics. High school “admissions” would become similar to college majors.

When I talked to Principal Greg Giglio, the two of us agreed that HHS is not directly affected by other schools’ enrollment problems. But we both agreed when I said, “not yet.”

And with that, I rest my case.