The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

Dougherty Valley student population to shrink considerably

Workers clean up the build site that once was the 5000 buildings.
Alexander (Alex) Wahhab
Workers clean up the build site that once was the 5000 buildings.

The 5000 buildings’ demolition over the past summer is a symptom of a falling student population at Dougherty Valley, which will continue for the rest of the decade. 

Due to factors such as a dwindling birth rate and the slowing of residential construction in the SRVUSD area, enrollment predictions suggest that DVHS may shrink by up to 36% by 2029. 

“2021-22 was our largest year,” counselor Meagan Sellers recalled. “And we knew that—we knew that the big bubble was 3400 [students], and then it was gonna start decreasing.”

One element in the equation is the declining birth rate in San Ramon. In the zip code 94582, fertility decreased from 529 births in 2008, to 283 in 2021. 

Meanwhile, students that graduate take up housing spots, as homeowners are likely to remain living in the neighborhood. 

Due to factors such as a dwindling birth rate and the slowing of residential construction in the SRVUSD area, enrollment predictions suggest that DVHS may shrink by up to 36% by 2029. 

“A lot of families who bought their home [nearby] have good interest rates,” principal Evan Powell said. “Their property taxes [are] lower, like they’re not going to leave, especially if they love their home in our community.” 

Additionally, home construction near Dougherty is slowing down, with fewer and fewer new planned properties in San Ramon as land becomes saturated. 

“When we first opened, [they] were still building so many homes,” Sellers said. “So it made sense that we were growing.”

These components are all taken into consideration in a recent study forecasting SRVUSD student population changes until 2029. 

“Based on the demographic [report], we’re supposed to drop over 1100 students starting this year,” Powell said. “I would say they’re usually fairly accurate within maybe 10%.”

A waning student body is not unique to DVHS: elementary and middle schools near Dougherty will also shrink in the coming years. Windemere and Gale are together prophesied to lose 800 students in the next five years. 

Based on the demographic [report], we’re supposed to drop over 1100 students starting this year. I would say they’re usually fairly accurate within maybe 10%.

— Principal Powell

The most apparent effect of the changing student numbers is the clearance of the 5000 buildings. 

“When they put in the portables for the 5000 (around six years ago), those were leased portables,” Powell said. “So we were renting them, knowing that the demographic study was going to show Dougherty was going to decline back down to 3000 or less students. The portables were needed to keep us above 3200 students with classrooms. The prediction was correct—this year, we would be under 3200, and we’re at 3148.” 

Past construction projects on campus reflect the inflating student body size in the 2010’s.  

“The portables for 9000 were added in 2013-2014, and then the 1000 building [extension] started construction in the same time,” Powell said. “When they built the school, they already had the plans for that extension […] And it turned out, back then, the school grew super fast that they needed to add that wing on sooner than expected. […] The portables and 9000 building, those ones have been owned by the district. So those are staying for the foreseeable future.”

Decreasing student counts could also mean an uncertain future for school funding. Per the district’s contract with the San Ramon Valley Education Association, for every 27 students, the school receives money for one full-time equivalent (FTE) faculty position. 

“As we’re declining enrollment, the district FTE is going to go down,” Powell said. “It’s just a natural piece.”

For now, teachers seem to be outgrowing the school at an appropriate pace. 

“Last year, we dropped [by] 8.4 FTE,” Powell said. “So we had to reduce over eight teachers. Luckily, we had teachers who were resigning [or] retired. So we didn’t have to say ‘sorry, we have to lay [someone] off’. Usually that’s the case, which is lucky because I don’t want to have to do that for anyone.”

On the other hand, dropping student counts could help fix current teacher shortages. With almost universally declining enrollment in the school district, though, schools will eventually have to make unpleasant accommodations. 

Ultimately, Dougherty is unlikely to be in any sort of population-related crisis soon, and students can only wait and see how the school changes with time. 

“Knowing that we went down almost 200 [students so far], we have 900 to go,” Powell said. “Now, is that accurate? Within a certain amount. We know we’re declining. Are we going to truly go down to 2300 students on this campus? Who knows?”

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About the Contributors
William Zhao, Staff Writer
William joined because he appreciates journalism. Objectivity is a big part of his ideology and that’s hard to achieve without accurate news. He took J1 last year as a sophomore, and, over the summer, assumed an editor position at a local newspaper (The Earth Chronicles).He is also super interested in physics and placed very well (silver medal) in this years national physics olympiad (USAPhO). If William could be anyone on the Tribune, he would be David Zhang. He has an unbeatable work ethic and is incredibly disciplined. 
Alexander (Alex) Wahhab, Photography Editor
Alex joined the Tribune because J1 was a very rewarding class, and he liked the community. In his free time, he enjoys skateboarding around town. A fun fact about Alex is that he is very injury-prone. His goal for this year is to be a good photo editor. If he could be anyone on the Tribune, he would be Joshua, because he is like a little brother to Alex.

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