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[whitespace] New school in Willow Glen encouraging enrollments

Principal wants to make sure they are prepared if more students show up

Willow Glen--San Jose Unified School District officials expect nearly 300 students to attend the district's first new elementary school in nearly 25 years, when it opens Aug. 29.

As of May 8, however, less than 70 children had enrolled at Ernesto Galarza Elementary School, since the beginning of the enrollment period in February.

Classrooms are taking shape at the school site, and the school's new principal is now concentrating on making sure students who want to fill them register soon.

District Demographic Planning Administrator Bob Gonzales said the school, named for a San Jose writer, educator and civil rights activist of the mid-1990s, can accommodate 750 students. Gonzales said the enrollment at the school will grow over the next few years, because most people will put their children into a new school in kindergarten and not in later grades. He said most of the school's students will come from areas east of Highway 87.

"People are thinking it's going to be a while," Principal Catalina Milligan said of the new school's first day. "It's not. If you want to come to this school, decide now."

Milligan said she isn't concerned the students won't enroll in the school. She's worried parents will register more children than expected at the last minute, when it will be too late for the school to hire enough teachers.

The district has already hired 12 teachers for three kindergarten classes and two classes each of grades 1 through 5, Milligan said. The school will get more teachers to accommodate the increased enrollment, she said. Parents can enroll their children in the new school through the summer months and even after school starts, she said, but that would make the first days of school challenging for the insufficient staff.

Milligan said she plans to put up banners around the construction site, announcing that the school will open soon and registration is now open. She added that the number of enrollments is on the rise in just the past few weeks.

Gonzales said the district built the school, because of a need for more classrooms for youth in the neighborhoods east of Willow Glen. Gonzales added that enrollments at the school could change significantly between now and the school's opening, because of the high mobility of the population living in those communities.

Nearly 40 students are signed up to start kindergarten at the Galarza school this fall, and about six are scheduled to attend each of the first through fifth grades. Gonzales said it is less common for parents to remove their children from elementary schools they already attend and instead start them at a new school. The enrollments at a number of nearby elementary schools, including Willow Glen, Washington, Gardner, Booksin, Schallenberger, Canoas Garden and others will decrease as students move to Galarza, he said.

Children living within the approximate boundaries of Willow and Humbolt Streets to the north, San Jose Avenue to the south, Highway 87 to the west and Senter Road to the east will attend the new school.

For more information about enrolling students at Ernesto Galarza Elementary School or other schools in the district, call 408.535.6430, or visit www.sjusd.k12.ca.us. To reach the school office, call 408.535.6671.
Kate Carter

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