Note: This story is the first part in a series about enrollment at Rosemont High School and Albert Einstein Middle School.
When the final bell rings at , the principal dashes out the door. But he's not headed home–he's off to the crosswalk.
Garrett Kirkland, of the Rosemont middle school, likes to be seen directing traffic at the street corner in front of the school, especially when it's raining or on a recent, fridgid afternoon.
He wants to show he's dedicated to the safety of the students and is serious about their success, and says it's already paying off.
He points to a home across the street from the school.
"They were going to go to Sutter (Middle School)," Kirkland said, adding that now they're "pretty sure" they'll attend Einstein.
Kirkland, who is focusing much of his time this year on branding and marketing the school, said he's pushing hard to make sure Rosemont families don't send their kids elsewhere.
"Since September I've been to 30 elementary school events," he said, noting that increasing enrollment is a slow process. "It's not one meeting where you give this hard sell."
The school has also paid to bring three bus-loads of local elementary school students to Einstein to tour the campus.
This week marks the beginning of the , when parents can elect to send kids anywhere else in the district where there are open seats. During the 2010-11 school year, Einstein saw a 50-student bump in enrollment, but it was the first such increase since 2001, according to state statistics.
Kirkland said the district is projecting another drop in enrollment at Einstein, which could lead to budget cuts; schools receive funding based on the number of students who attend that school.
Kirkland said he's confident his efforts will pay off, but he's not sure how soon.
"We're now in the conversation, where we weren't in the conversation before," he said.
Building excitement around being a Wolverine
A couple weeks ago, Albert Einstein Middle School's gym was packed with students from that school and a group of visitors: students. They danced, sang and touted their star athletes.
Rosemont High School Principal Leise Martinez said the more options kids have, the harder traditional high schools across the district have to work to attract students.
"This dilemma for all high schools is we really have to give them a good reason to come to high school," she said later by phone. "It really has to be more than academics, and the academics have to be rigorous."
Enrollment at Rosemont has decreased every year since 2007-08 and is down about 17 percent from that year, according to state statistics. Last fall, decreasing enrollment led to the and the .
Martinez said this year's numbers are down slightly but "pretty stable," and said the school is doing better than others in the district.
It's true that other large high schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District have also seen decreases in enrollment, but some haven't been hit as hard; for example, McClatchy's enrollment has increased the last two years.
Rosemont also faces competition from outside the district, Martinez said.
"Rosemont is a new high school, so there are families who have gone to other schools for decades," she said. Rio Americano and Cordova High School have long-standing ties with some families in Rosemont, she said.
Martinez said Rosemont High School is working hard to draw students in with unique programs, like its –classes centered on cooking, construction, renewable energy and other topics. The school also has a garden, which has seen recent expansion.
"I want Rosemont to be the really cutting edge, modern high school," Martinez said. "I want Rosemont to be this century's high school."
While Rosemont waits for its reputation and image to build, Martinez said she hopes events like the rally at Einstein can get incoming freshmen excited about high school.
"How many movies, TV (shows), pop culture things really center around high school?" she said. "High school is a hot item. I want to offer that to them, that they're going to be participating in something that's really exciting and ... want them to get excited about coming to Rosemont."
Note: This story is the first part in a series about enrollment at Rosemont High School and Albert Einstein Middle School. Next: What other schools are Rosemont parents choosing, and why?