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FAQs on Bay Farm Middle School and Other Program Considerations

As AUSD, the Board, and the Bay Farm community continue to discuss options for the school’s middle school program, we know that some people are upset and many people have questions.  The enrollment and budget factors involved in this consideration are fairly complex, so we have developed this FAQ to help community members understand some of what we’re looking at as we consider options for using our resources effectively, efficiently, and equitably.

Again, we are in full recognition that these proposals are difficult for stakeholders for a variety of reasons, and will strive to continuously improve our outreach on these critical issues.

Please note that this FAQ also has several questions about options for Maya Lin School and Earhart Elementary School, at the bottom. In addition, we will updating this document regularly to address emergent questions and data.

This original document was posted on January 23. Questions marked by an asterik [*] were added on February 7.

Bay Farm School

Why is AUSD considering phasing out Bay Farm School’s 6-8 program?

Over the last seven years, enrollment in the Bay Farm Middle School has steadily declined. This is reflected in both the 6th grade enrollment (which is not filling to capacity) and the number of students who leave after their 6th or 7th grade year, as shown in the graph below.

graph of enrollment

While this graph does not show enrollment numbers for 2023-24, we do know that as of January 23, 55 fifth graders have applied to the middle school program. That breaks down into 25 current Bay Farm 5th graders, 26 AUSD students through open enrollment, and 4 students who reside in Alameda but are currently not enrolled in an AUSD school. Many families who have applied for Bay Farm Middle School have also applied for other middle school options. Families will be sent an acceptance letter for Bay Farm and any other program they have applied to and been accepted. They will have to accept their spot within two weeks. Once families commit to Bay Farm middle school it becomes their zoned middle school.

Why is that a problem?

Like districts and charter schools across the state, AUSD is experiencing declining enrollment and continuing to grapple with erratic and insufficient funding from the state government.  At the same time, AUSD is committed to reallocating and stabilizing funding across all sites so as to better support all students and staff, including those who traditionally have experienced inequitable opportunities and outcomes.

To ready the district for potential reductions in resources and better support all students, district leaders are evaluating programs and expenses system-wide, with a goal of:

1.     Discontinuing programs that are not cost-effective or effective and redistributing resources. We understand that ending programs can be difficult and upsetting.  In exchange for ending small or ineffective programs, however, we are proposing adding more middle and high school counselors, a longer-day program for all kindergartners, more collaboration time for teachers, and the continued pursuit of better funding for ongoing salary and benefits for educators district-wide, so that we can attract and retain the best staff across our schools. In other words, in order to serve more students more equitably, we are proposing restructuring and reallocating resources in a way that progressively frees up some revenue to stabilize or extend crucial programs and supports.

2.     Establishing equitable distribution of resources to fund our base program. By “base program” we mean fundamental resources provided at each school (or across each grade level) such as student-teacher ratios, student-admin ratios, and basic curricula and programs. General funds should be used on these base programs, not unique school programs.

How is this related to Bay Farm School’s 6-8 program?

Because of the low enrollment and high attrition, the average class sizes in Bay Farm’s middle school program hover around 23:1 as compared to our average middle school class size of 30 to 32 at other sites.

Unfortunately, based on current enrollment declines, we expect that enrollment in the Bay Farm program will continue to shrink, which will make the program even smaller and contribute to more inefficiencies at other middle schools.

What’s wrong with having a small program?

It’s not a question of right or wrong in our view, but whether we can and should support a few singular programs at this point in time with revenue that can better fund or stabilize additional needs and supports in places that serve much larger numbers of students.

Put another way, small programs can be more expensive to run when one examines class size and overall enrollment than larger programs. That’s because a middle school class with only 22 students and a class with 32 students require the same level of staffing and infrastructure.

In addition, offering one program with small class sizes and a small student-to-counselor ratio to some students, while other middle school students are in larger classes and have less access to counselors, is inherently inequitable.

Finally, with declining enrollment across our middle schools, we need to consider whether we a) need and b) can support so many middle school programs in one district.

Doesn’t the fact that Bay Farm accepts students from all over the district make it equitable?

Bay Farm is open to middle school students from across the district, yes. This is called “open enrollment.” But geography makes the Bay Farm program inaccessible to many students -- both because of the distance and the lack of bus service. As such, a student who lives in central or west Alameda would have a harder time getting to the program, especially if their parent/guardian could not drive them. Wood Middle and Encinal Jr. Jets also offer open enrollment.

If the Bay Farm 6-8 program closes, what happens to the students who are enrolled there?

AUSD would not close the program all at once. Instead, it would phase out the program over two years, so that all students who are currently enrolled in Bay Farm’s middle school can finish their time there and graduate as 8th graders. We just won’t be accepting new students in the program.

*Is Bay Farm’s elementary school closing?

No. The current proposal would gradually phase out the 6-8 program over two years, which would allow current 6th and 7th graders the option to complete their middle school years at Bay Farm. AUSD will continue to provide the resources needed to support current middle schoolers there. Bay Farm’s elementary program will continue to operate if the proposed phase-out is approved.

*Has the decision been made already?

No. The Board of Education will vote on the proposal at its February 14 meeting. 

Do Lincoln and Wood have room for Bay Farm students?

Every Bay Farm 6-8 student will be able to enroll in their zoned middle school, whether it’s Lincoln, Jr. Jets, or Wood Middle School.

*Does AUSD have room to accommodate growth that may come from the new housing the city has planned? 

In brief, yes. Our current enrollment projections do include planned housing developments. 

Here’s how we do the calculations:

Currently, the City is planning for approximately 3,365 new housing units over the next 10 years. Most of these units are multi-family units (MFU), with 1 or 2 bedrooms. Specifically, the planned new housing is comprised of: 

  • 2,636 multi-family units
  • 729 single-family detached units

The majority of the units are in Ruby Bridges, Love, Maya Lin, and Encinal Jr/Sr High School zones - not Bay Farm.

Typically, we project enrollment increases from developments using the following factors/assumptions:

  • 10 students for every 100 new units of multi-family housing
  • 30 students for every 100 new units of single-family housing

These calculations are based on historic patterns of development and enrollment. Specifically, the actual impact over the past 5 years has shown that the last 260 units built have yielded only an additional 30 students across TK-12. This is about 11.5 students per 100 units –  more in line with the lower multi-family factor of 10:100 shown above, even though over half of those 260 units were single-family dwellings.

Actual Students Gained from New Housing 2016-2017 to 2021-2022

Most important, even if the remainder of the units planned generate numbers closer to our projection factors, we believe we have adequate space to accept those students even if we phase out the Bay Farm Middle School program. And again, the majority of the units planned are on the western or central part of the island. 

An unfortunate reality for us is that projected declines in enrollment at middle school will most likely outpace any growth in additional students we will see from new housing over the next several years. 

Why did AUSD commit to constructing a classroom building at Bay Farm if the middle school program is going to close?

Even if the middle school program is phased out, Bay Farm School needs a new classroom building to replace aging portables on that site.

*Why did news of this potential phase-out come so late?

The idea of phasing out Bay Farm’s middle school program was first suggested to the Board of Education at its December 13 meeting and then more formally introduced at the Board's January 10 meeting.. The idea was again discussed at the January 24 Board meeting and will be voted on at the february 14 meeting.

We recognize that some Bay Farm community members and staff were surprised by the news that AUSD was considering this and have expressed concerns about the speed with which we transitioned from discussion to proposal. In an attempt to address some of those concerns - chiefly those regarding the lack of time for community engagement -  we have: 

  • Heard two hours of public comments and questions at the January 24 Board Meeting
  • Taken comments and questions for approximately 3.5 hours at an in-person meeting at Bay Farm on January 26
  • Taken questions and comments for approximately 1.5 hours on February 1 during an online community forum
  • Prepared to facilitate  another opportunity for public comments at the February 14 Board meeting 

The overall number of schools in AUSD, as well as the number of middle schools in particular and Bay Farm Middle’s enrollment within that context, has been a recurrent topic in public conversations for multiple years - even during times when our enrollment was higher. 

How much money will AUSD save if Bay Farm Middle School is phased out?

We expect to save $300,000 to $500,000 closing the Bay Farm 6-8 program. That covers the cost of the extra teachers we need to employ there due to the small class sizes at Bay Farm, as well as a part-time counselor, and extra custodial services.

Won’t you still have to employ the teachers, just at other sites?

Most likely we will need some but not all. That’s because we’ll be able to fill classes to the contractual capacity at the larger schools, which means a similar number of students can be supported with fewer staff at those sites.

*So will Bay Farm Middle School teachers lose their jobs?

We cannot discuss employment details or plans for specific teachers, as these are personnel matters. It is important to understand, however, that teacher hiring and release is governed by a complex set of regulations and contractual agreements. And a lay-off is not determined by the site at which a teacher works but by seniority, volunteer transfers, and other factors. That said, we can say it is unlikely that a Bay Farm Middle teacher would be released if they are not in their first year.

Why isn’t AUSD willing to spend $300,000 on this school?

The problem is that we are using money from our general fund to provide a small school experience to a very small number of students. Technically, general fund money should only be used for base programs that all schools share, not a special program at one school.

In addition, we need to look at how we use our resources across the district to benefit the most students. WMS, for example, can accommodate another 150 students, and we are currently investing some $50 million in modernization there. Considering a phase-out of the Bay Farm Middle School program is the first step in trying to look at greater efficiencies and stabilizing our base costs across AUSD.

*What specifically will the money be used for?

AUSD would like to re-direct the money being spent on the middle school program to:

Full-day kindergarten: The Board of Education has already approved a modified kindergarten day for the 2023-24 school year (with a release time of 2:00 pm). Phasing out Bay Farm’s middle school program will move revenue to provide the staffing for a full-day kindergarten program (with a release time of 2:50 pm). We believe this is in the interest of the whole district because it will provide additional school time for our youngest learners and their families. A full-day kindergarten program may also help us become more competitive in what may be an extended period of declining enrollment. 

Common bell schedules: Phasing out the Bay Farm Middle School program would also allow us to invest in elementary school schedules where grade-level teaching teams are teaching the same subject areas at the same time. This allows for special education teachers and other support providers to push into classes to support students (rather than pulling them out of grade-level instruction in class). It also allows teachers to group and teach students based on needs within the classroom. 

Historically, AUSD has not been able to do this because school sites have had to share specialist teachers (e.g., music and PE teachers), which resulted in the school’s master schedule being determined by those specialists’ schedules rather than instructional needs. Investing in more specialist teacher staffing time will reduce travel times and allow blocks to be scheduled first and enrichment to be scheduled second. It will also result in specialist teachers spending more time at fewer sites (which allows them to be more deeply integrated into their assigned school communities). 

Overall, the proposal at Bay Farm is not just about saving money,  as some have said,  but making critical shifts in resource allocation so as to provide stronger foundational programming at multiple school sites across AUSD for all of our students.

*Why does AUSD feel we may have too many middle schools?

Broadly, the chart below shows that we operate relatively more facilities for our student population than other districts do. If you look at the top half, it shows that AUSD runs 11 schools where, according to the county average, the need is closer to 9.7 schools, But keep in mind that the Jr. Jets program at EHS is counted/embedded in the bottom or purple half of the chart. This actually means that AUSD is currently operating 12 programs to serve students TK-8 when we likely could do that well with 9.7 facilities. 


Why hasn’t AUSD promoted Bay Farm’s middle school program more?

AUSD promotes the open enrollment window for all schools. It does not provide extra promotion for certain programs.

*Why hasn't the district website been updated to show Bay Farm Middle School is open enrollment?

The school finder map on AUSD’s website is produced by Davis Demographics. We have reached out to them and asked them to fix it.

Isn’t AUSD worried about losing student enrollment if it closes the Bay Farm middle school program?

Families should always choose the program that best suits their children. And historically, quite a few students leave AUSD after 5th grade and then return after 9th grade. The existence of the Bay Farm middle school program has not stopped that attrition. Moreover, a number of Bay Farm middle school students already leave after their 6th-gradeth grade year.

*Why weren’t other options considered?

This proposal reflects a first step at examining all aspects of our expenditures and programs, top to bottom, PK to 12.

AUSD spent considerable time a few years back considering the consolidation of the two comprehensive high schools. No actionable decision was made to initiate that, so we turned our focus to middle school programming post-COVID, because that is where we have seen particular declines between grades 6 and 8 district wide for several years for several years.

Since the dilemma we’re facing right now specifically involves the number of middle school programs we offer, our ideas have focused on middle schools.

*Can you close Jr. Jets instead?

Like Bay Farm Middle School, Jr. Jets is a relatively small program. But it serves more students overall than the Bay Farm Middle School and does not lose as many students in the 7th and 8th grades.  It is also now the zoned school for Ruby Bridges and Paden, because families on the far west end of the island have long expressed concerns about students being able to get to Wood Middle School in a timely and safe manner.

I heard that non-AUSD students aren’t allowed to enroll in Bay Farm’s 6-8 program. Is that true?  

Non-AUSD students are definitely allowed to enroll in the Bay Farm 6-8 program and on the same timeline as AUSD students. After being accepted into Bay Farm, non-AUSD students need to enroll in AUSD (later in the spring) but this does not affect their ability or timeline for enrolling in the Bay Farm 6-8 program.

How can you say enrollment has dropped when there is always a waiting list?

While some years back there may have been temporary waiting lists, over the last several years, Bay Farm has accepted all students who wanted to attend the middle school program, and 6th grade enrollment has continued to drop; in addition, those 6th grade cohort/class sizes have declined steadily by 8th grade consistently for the past 7 school years.

Bay Farm has the highest ratio of IEPs to administrators than any other school.  Why don’t you think about that kind of inclusion and equity?

This information is incorrect. Bay Farm’s middle school program has the same IEP to administrator ratio as Lincoln and Wood Middle School. 

*But what about students with special needs who wanted to go to Bay Farm Middle School?

We understand that 5th grade families who were planning to send their students to at Bay Farm Middle School next year may be disappointed. Our special education team is reaching out to all families with IEPs who expressed interest in the program and will work with them and school site staff to support their transition from 5th grade into their zoned AUSD middle school.

We are aware of some suggestions that Bay Farm Middle School serves AUSD’s “most vulnerable students.” While we recognize that there are students with a wide range of needs and learning styles in every AUSD school, Bay Farm’s Middle School special education program is important, but is limited in terms of who can access the program or be accommodated. Our most vulnerable students, those with extensive needs or who require the most intensive special education services and supports, attend either Lincoln Middle School or Wood Middle School. 

Moreover, the Bay Farm Middle school program is comparatively small. Over the last several years, it has served, on average, 10-15 students per year with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). While we can appreciate why this is difficult for the families directly impacted, we also believe we can support those students, and their successors, at the other three middle schools in our district. 

Moving forward, all AUSD schools will continue to support students with special needs. Small schools and comprehensive schools alike can and should support a wide array of learners. However, with our current and projected district-wide challenges around middle school enrollment,  continuing to offer the four middle school programs we currently have is problematic. 

Moreover, delaying these adjustments will delay or prevent us from addressing other priorities, like a full day of kindergarten and a new standard elementary school schedule that we believe will be beneficial for all learners, and in particular, those with special needs or specific struggles. 

Why can’t you zone Bay Farm Middle School to be the program for Bay Farm and Earhart students?

We are not seeing a strong interest in the Bay Farm Middle School from families of Bay Farm and Earhart 5th graders. For instance, as of January 23, 2023, only 25 Bay Farm 5th graders (of 78 total) had enrolled in the school's middle school program, and only seven Earhart 5th graders (of 89 total) had enrolled. That is not enough interest to zone all Earhart and Bay Farm students for the Bay Farm 6-8 program.

More broadly, AUSD is currently trying to decrease system-wide inefficiencies. To designate Bay Farm as a zoned middle school means providing a comprehensive middle school for Bay Farm School and Earhart Elementary School students, which in turn would entail upgrading the Bay Farm middle school program substantially and at a greater cost. That expansion would include adding electives (and staff for electives) as well as facilities expansions and upgrades.

This will create more inefficiencies in our program at a time when we think we may already have too many middle school programs for our population currently.

*The chart below shows the schools from which Bay Farm 6th graders came between 2017 and 2022.

Maya Lin School

What changes are being proposed for Maya Lin School?

The district supports the art program at Maya Lin School but hopes that together, the district and site can identify alternative funding for the program as it is currently funded with general funds. Technically, general funds should be used on base programming across all sites, not additional or exclusive staffing at select sites.

Earhart Elementary School

What is being proposed for Earhart?

As with Maya Lin School, district staff support the music/science program at Earhart but would like to identify alternative funding, as it is currently funded by general funds. Technically, general funds should be used on base programming across all sites, not additional or exclusive staffing at select sites.

Aren’t innovative programs funded by the parcel tax?

The 2011 Measure A parcel tax, as well as its successor, Measure B1, provided funds for setting up innovative programs. However, that allocation was only meant to pilot the programs for the first three years, not sustain them in perpetuity. After the initial three-year pilot, these innovative programs are meant to be self-sustaining and not drawing money from our general fund.