At its Feb. 22 meeting, the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Board of Education unanimously approved a universal transitional kindergarten (TK) program, approved the issuance of Measure BH bonds, and reviewed enrollment data and projections. With the passing of Assembly Bill AB 22, access to full-day TK – a stepping stone between preschool and kindergarten – will be extended to all 4-year-olds in California at no cost to families by the 2025-26 school year. The state is branding it as universal TK because the offering is now a universal statewide expectation. However, BHUSD has offered TK since the 2011-12 school year. Right now, the district has two TK sections and will add an additional four. The board also expressed interest in opening the meetings in-person to the public again once when indoor masking restrictions are lifted. With the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) dropping some indoor masking requirements starting Feb. 25 and more guidance expected from Governor Newsom’s office early next week, it’s unclear how soon the board will respond. The board also approved a resolution continuing authority to hold virtual meetings with a 4-0 vote, with Gabriel Halimi abstaining. Lastly, the board thanked Wade Roach, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, who is retiring from BHUSD at the end of this school year. The district is seeking his replacement.
The board reviewed a Demographic Analysis and Enrollment Projections report prepared by King Consulting, a school planning firm, that showed a pattern of decreasing enrollment since the 2007-08 school year. Over the past 10 years, the district’s overall enrollment has decreased by almost 30% with a reduction of 1,300 students. According to Rob Murray, Director of Demographics and Planning at King Consulting, lower enrollment is partially due to changing local population demographics, with fewer school age children over time living in the district. Projections indicate the downward trend will continue, but by adopting a universal TK, the board hopes to rebound some of those numbers.
“One of the greatest opportunities is about bringing in universal TK and to bring in more classes into our school district early, since we are able to offer that as a public school,” board President Mary Wells said. “What a great service for our community to be able to offer that at both Horace Mann and Hawthorne at this time. And from an enrollment standpoint, I think that’s one of the first steps that we can take immediately to help address our enrollment.”
The district’s TK program will be the first year of a two-year kindergarten program, and under the approved roll out of the program for the 2022-23 school year, children who turn five by Sept. 1 will be placed in kindergarten, and those who miss the deadline will be placed in TK. The district’s TK program will admit children whose fifth birthday occurs by June 30. The district’s prior policy for TK admitted kids whose fifth birthday fell between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31.
Enrollment for the 2022-23 school year opened Feb. 23 online at www.bhusd.org/enrollment/.
While both TK and kindergarten are optional in California, children are required to attend school once they turn 6-years-old.
The board also approved a resolution authorizing the issuance of General Obligation Measure BH bonds, which voters passed in 2018 with 60.8% support. Of the $385 million in bond authorization financing the district’s construction projects, $160 million was issued in June of 2019. The second series of bonds is not to exceed $225 million.
“Both the taxable and the non-taxable bonds are at a lower rate than our previous issue of non-taxable bonds, so this is a really great opportunity for us,” Wells noted.