Burbank is known for many things including the world famous Warner Brothers Studios, Walt Disney Studios, Nickelodeon Network as well as the love received from Johnny Carson. But Burbank (if you have kids in Southern California) is also known for the good schools.
When I moved to Southern California 15 years ago and my husband and I were looking to buy, we had a realtor out of Studio City who saw us coming in from the Midwest and asked if we planned on having kids. We said yes and she said, then “Burbank is where you want to be.”
She was right. Not only did the research I found show me that Burbank had better schools than most areas around, the City of Burbank was more like the Midwest than any place we visited. We knew we wanted to live there.
We made a purchase on a small condo, in what I now refer to as the ‘not so good part of Burbank.’ And then we started to have children and this condo wasn’t going to fit the growing family. So we went house shopping.
The realtor we had, we loved, and trusted their opinions. So when they showed us all the school districts and the neighborhoods accordingly, we found the absolute perfect house in the Jefferson school district. We liked what we saw, we loved the home and the area surrounding…and we made the purchase.
Cut to 2010, when the eldest child was to enter kindergarten. Suddenly the neighbors with kids at the schools weren’t so happy about the schools. There were budget cuts from the state and the class sizes had gotten up to 34 kids. The frustration from parents around me with their kids already in school, made me not want to go.
Someone pointed us in the direction of Village Christian, which is where we ended up staying with all three of our kids for 5 years. There was a point we were completely dissatisfied with that school and weren’t going to pay for it anymore. On top of that, the rat race that happens after school with dinner, homework, sporting events and three kids…made me want to retreat.
So, I did. We homeschooled! And I’ll be honest, it was super awesome in many ways and super sucky too. We had no homework, my kids were getting enough sleep, late ball games didn’t affect our morning wake up time, field trips were very frequent, parks all to ourselves and not to mention the fact that there are so many families homeschooling in Burbank, there’s plenty of people and classes to keep things ‘not boring.’
On the other hand, you’re with your kids all the time. I seriously love my kids…but mama needs a break every once and while. And getting that break time is hard, and keeping a clean home is near impossible and…well, it’s all exhausting.
So, this year, as a family, we all decided that considering public school, even if it’s for a period of time (yes, we really love homeschooling that much) was an option. And the timing was perfect, because that happened to be the week of our home school’s open house. Because we live close, we all walked down to Jefferson and I showed my two younger ones what they could be seeing next year. They saw a ton of their friends and they walked away feeling conflicted. They still go back and forth on wanting to try public school, but we’ve been living in such freedom…they know what they’d be giving up.
I decided to register anyway, and I did. I knew I was taking a chance here. I had already heard for years how early you have to register to get into school here and it’s not some overreaction from parents. It’s the truth.
I registered online the next day and made my appointment for the following week to take the forms in. After all was said and done, I was told there was no room in the grades for my kids at Jefferson.
What the what??!!
But we bought our house for this school? I’ve paid taxes for 15 years to have the freedom to come to this school? We can WALK to this school!
I was frustrated, but also knew what had happened. I had just waited too long. And that also seemed completely ridiculous to me. Waited to long…to get into the school we’re zoned for?
As I drove home and prepared to tell my two younger ones that Jefferson was full (One cheered and one booed), I thought about how crowded the school already was months ahead of the next school year. I thought about the development happening in Burbank in the next several years and started to think about the impact that might have on our schools too.
I didn’t hear anything for a few days and knew we needed to figure this out. I called the USD and explained that I really would love to know what schools are available. I got a return phone call the following week and was told “the only school I can offer you right now is Miller.”
Really!? One school out of 11!! I was shocked! By this point, I had realized that my middle schooler had more friends at Luther than Muir, so I asked about the elementary schools closer to there. Nope, all full. When I say all full, I mean, they’re full in either one or both of the grades I need.
But there was hope. There was a spot found for us in a grade at one of them and I got my daughter into the middle school where most of her friends are.
Wow. I just couldn’t believe this.
My mind stared to think about all of this. And again, to the development happening in Burbank.
I know very few residents here who are jumping for joy at the Talaria project with ‘241 multi-family units’ coming in. And the old IKEA location with 760+ living spaces being added and the most recent I saw is the First Street Village adding three mixed-used buildings — each five or six stories with a total of 261 more residential units.
What in the actual hell?
You see, I like change. Some of this is absolutely exciting to me. But most of it, is not.
I’m trying not to freak out, because actual real-life experience has shown me that things just don’t happen the way a large group of people spiraling out of control in a Facebook group tell us it’s going to happen.
I thought for sure our city was doomed with the new IKEA….not so much. I’ve been in multiple times and there hasn’t been a traffic or parking issue for me. And I even went on a Friday night and was surprised at how easy it was.
I know the mall will be super awesome and make me want to go again…but still.
Change is hard. Seeing Burbank change so much over the 15 years I’ve been here, is hard. I think we all want things to stay the same, but that can’t happen.
And if change is okay, drastic change is not..but that doesn’t happen either.
But what about the schools? Will this all have a major impact on the schools? One can’t help but think so.
So, I reached out to Burbank USD Superintendent, Matt Hill. I’ve met Matt a few times and he’s been very kind and pleasant to speak with. And this time was no exception. He was booked for a week, but took the time to answer questions via email and even called me by phone to go over all the answers. He also sent me a powerpoint with information that you might find helpful too, please see that link at the bottom of the post.
So, here are a few of the questions I asked and got answers to:
1. Is enrollment up this year?
For 2016-17 Burbank resident enrollment was down 94 students (it has been going down slightly over the last couple of years), however we have been able to stabilize enrollment by allowing people who work here but do not live here attend our schools (1,191interdistrict permits) = total enrollment 15,256 (+115)
2. How many students are allowed in to Burbank Schools, that don’t live in the city of Burbank?
3. What is the USD’s plan for the developments in Burbank and the families that will come with…essentially, what is your growth plan?
There are many variables: size of units, projected families that will occupy the units, location, etc. I have been meeting regularly with City and some developers to better understand the possibilities, our demographers then take this information and put them into our projections. Depending on what actually happens, here are some actions:
– For example, we have been closely monitoring and planning at Stevenson due to Talaria. We are reducing the amount of permits there to try and create some space. In addition, with our Bond (Measure S) we are replacing old bungalows with new modular buildings and have added the infrastructure for two additional classrooms in case we need more at that site in the future.
– We also put in infrastructure to add two classrooms at Emerson in case we need to expand in the future
– If there is development by the airport – Providencia, Bret Harte, Washington and Luther could accommodate more students
4. Does putting modular classrooms to accommodate, take away the area for play at schools?
Depends on the site: Measure S is mostly replacing existing bungalows with permanent modular buildings (for example Jefferson is a 1-1 swap, so it won’t take additional playground space). Bret Harte is adding more bungalows, but we are putting in a two-story structure to reduce impact on playground space. Stevenson, is taking up field space, but freeing up playground space.
5. Could/would more elementary school’s build upwards?
As mentioned above, would could add classrooms at Stevenson and Emerson if needed. We also are doing our planning at Disney and McKinley, which would add some more classrooms. Providencia is another site that could add modular to in the future if needed. Schools like Jefferson and Miller are already over 750 students, so we would try to not add to those sites.
6. Is there an issue with crowdedness at the Middle and High school level like there is at the Elementary level?
Right now, we are able to accommodate all residents at their Middle and High School. We are projecting a decrease in enrollment at Middle School and a slight decrease in High School for next year.
7. Do the schools benefit from the developments? Does the school get paid when new buildings go up? I know there are fees to pay to the schools when you renovate or add on to your house.
We receive funding (developer fees) that can be spent on capital improvements (buildings, furniture, etc.) to accommodate growth at our schools. For example, we are able to cover some of the cost at Stevenson with Talaria developer fees. Depending on the size of the development and the projected number of families we may need to talk to the city and developers for some additional contributions to support growth at our schools.
8. As Superintendent of our Burbank School District, what is your greatest concern for our schools, at this moment?
My number one focus is to ensure every one of our students graduate with a diploma that allows them to live healthy, meaningful lives. I am concerned our State is not investing enough in our schools to accomplish this goal. California is one of the lowest funded states in regards to per pupil funding.
9. Do the studios support our school system and do they get priority or rights to bring their kids to our schools?
Our business partners do not get priority in regards to enrollment. All interdistrict permits are submitted for a lottery and are placed after our neighborhood students have been assigned to schools in March.
10. Is there anything you can share with me on this issue that the residents should know about, that I haven’t asked?
“If individuals have specific concerns they can always email or call me to discuss.”
(Find his contact information at the bottom of this post)
Mr Hill also noted:
“And when it comes to enrollment, there are variables that can create an effect
1. We use a demographer to forecast birth rates and enrollments for each school
2. During the recession, class sizes in TK-3rd went up to 30+ students, we are now working on lowering them down to 24:1 TK-3rd by 2021 (average class size is for each school K-3rd not each class). To receive additional funding from the State to lower class size in TK-3, we must meet certain class size limits. We are at about 25:1 or less for each school site right now in TK-3.
3. Each year we have to cap some neighborhood students out of their neighborhood school especially since we are now required to meet class size limits in TK-3. For example if we have four classes of 25:1 and four new students enroll in that school, we cannot open another class with only four students and it could cause us to go over our class size limit if we add them to the existing classes, which will make us lose the funding. Therefore, we must relocate the student to another school.
4. Other variables come into play each year. For example we have had an unprecedented number of 1st graders leave private school and enroll in 1st grade a Jefferson this year. Therefore we had to move the TK class and add another 1st grade class.”
The Talaria project has handed over $800,000 in fees to our school district, which will be used toward prepping the impacted school, Stevenson and others around it. It takes about $250,000 to make one classroom and with additional costs, this money will go fast. The IKEA/I Heart Burbank project could bring in as much as an estimated 4 million to our schools in fees.
Currently, Burbank Schools has 15,200 students, a little over 6000 of them elementary kids. When talking about our concerns as residents and school parents, Mr. Hill says, “I think they’re raising good concerns. Can we predict the future, no? But we can talk about what we can do…we should talk about this as a community”
So, the question here is…will this development have a major negative impact on our schools? Most I ask think yes, some think no. In my humble opinion (and I can give it, because it’s my blog), I say absolutely yes. Most of our elementary schools are literally, already near capacity. I do think the development will have an impact. I think it’s impossible it wouldn’t.
Small apartments or not, families will move in as these apartments are still ‘more affordable’ than buying home in Burbank.
I’ve made the decision that I’m going to just remain calm and be the best resident I can. I’ll ask questions, I’ll attend City Council meetings and make sure I vote (and you should too) and I’ll serve the community and speak up when necessary, ask questions when I can and keep on keepin’ on.
We’re always going to do what’s best for our family and if that means at some point we homeschool again..well, then there’d be a few more spots open at the schools for others!
To contact Matt Hill, Superintendent
Phone: (818) 729-4422
Download link to see the full PowerPoint presentation with Burbank School Enrollment Information:
Enrollment Power Point Final 11 17 16