Larger student body does not concern administration

There has been a sharp increase in the student population at Burlingame High School this year. According to data from the San Mateo Union High School District, BHS experienced a 65 student increase in enrollment; as of September 2015, 1,295 students attended BHS while there are currently 1,360. This increase in enrollment is up from a 24-student increase between September 2014 and 2015.

For the last few years, enrollment was unusually low due to the construction of the F building. With construction complete, however, enrollment has returned to normal levels. The population in areas that feed into the SMUHSD’s three San Mateo schools (San Mateo, Aragon and Hillsdale) has also gone up in recent years, and some of that has spilled over into Burlingame.

“It’s just more kids coming up from our feeder schools; more kids are at [Burlingame Intermediate School] right now than before,” assistant principal Valerie Arbizu said. “We’re not seeing quite as many students go to private schools right now.”

Because of the higher enrollment, many new students, particularly freshmen, do not have their own lockers and some teachers do not have a permanent classroom. As a result, it is sometimes harder for students and teachers alike to keep track of their belongings and stay organized.

“It’s about adapting to the environment of the teacher who has taken ownership of that room,” said history teacher Alison Liberatore, who teaches in two different classrooms at opposite ends of the A building. “You feel like a visitor. Nothing is yours, and nothing is where you left it. You’re sort of living out of a suitcase.”

Class sizes are also larger. Classes are capped at 35 students, per district policy, but now more classes are right at that number. Teachers thus have to spend more time grading work, and students get less individual attention. The hallways of both the A and C buildings have become more crowded, sometimes preventing students from getting to class on time. On-campus parking has also become an issue with more spaces reserved for a larger staff.

“A lot of teachers have trouble quieting the class down,” senior Solena Aguilar said. “It’s hard for them to get everyone to focus, especially with the new teachers.”

San Mateo High School, the largest school in the district, had the biggest jump in enrollment this year. Aragon, which is next largest, had the second-biggest jump, followed by Burlingame, the district’s third-largest school. The district projects that enrollment throughout the district will continue to increase through at least 2020, but that could change if the cost of living in San Mateo County continues to rise.

Another major issue involved creating student schedules. With more students to accommodate, it was harder than usual for the counselors to give students the classes they wanted.

“When students want to switch from a class, after their schedule has already been made, it’s much harder this year because there is not a lot of space to move their schedule around,” counselor Carla Renzi said.

The district has set the school’s student capacity at 1,420, so BHS is not overflowing by any means. Although the senior class is currently the smallest of the four grades, the other three classes are about the same size, so Arbizu projects that enrollment will stay steady for the next year or so. At this point, the administration does not see the perceived overpopulation issue as a big problem.

“As long as we’re using our space creatively and maximizing the use of classrooms so that kids aren’t bursting at the seams, and teachers feel like they have a place to teach, we’ll be fine,” Arbizu said. “I would never want to be in a situation where we have to limit enrollment, especially to families who live in the area.”

Posted on October 2, 2016 .