Mon, Jan. 20

Student count up in some Verde Valley schools, down in others

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VERDE VALLEY - There are two ways that school districts measure how many students are enrolled at their schools.

One is based on the acronym ADM, which means average daily measure. The other is simply by counting heads.

In fiscal year 2017, most Verde Valley school districts are experiencing between 1 percent and 5 percent decreases in their student population.

But two of the Verde Valley's districts are experiencing an enrollment increase from a year ago.

At Mingus Union High School District, interim superintendent Eric Harmon, Principal Jennifer Chilton and the rest of the staff are enjoying a roughly 5-percent increase of students - 52 additional - from fiscal year 2016, according to Kirk Waddle, the district's business manager.

"This is a significant increase - and a pleasant surprise," Waddle says.

And for several reasons.

"Our guidance department was proactive and visited several additional schools last year to increase their awareness of what Mingus Union High School offers in terms of its wide range of programs," Waddle says. Also, "new families moved into the District.

Due to the switch from prior-year funding to current-year funding, figures on the enrollment on which Mingus' revenue is based are not final until September 2017.

"This makes it more difficult to make decisions," Waddle says. "In any case, the increase in enrollment is a positive change."

Some up - and some down

Though the opening of online high school EdOptions has affected student enrollment at South Verde High School, the Camp Verde Unified School District has experienced an increase of 52 students this year, according to District Superintendent Dennis Goodwin.

In fact, South Verde has seen a decrease of more than 50 percent of its student population, from 73 to 34 students. Goodwin says that the lack of enrollment at the school helped CVUSD decide at this time to not hire a new principal for the campus.

Three days each week, Camp Verde Middle School Principal Danny Howe helps oversee the South Verde campus.

"Plus the crew that is at South Verde have been there for several years," Goodwin says. They have a "great relationship with the kids. We also send a math teacher, [physical education] teacher, art teacher and band teacher to South Verde, offering more services then we did in previous years. We are finding [the South Verde students] are responding well to these additions at the school."

Despite the district's overall increase in student population, Camp Verde High School currently has 94 seniors enrolled. Though that is more than the 82 who graduated in May 2016, the school's graduating class in both 2016 and 2017 "are our smallest classes we have in the district," Goodwin says. "We anticipate more growth again next year as well."

Ten-day population

Based on 10-day population figures throughout Verde Valley schools, only the area's high schools are seeing student enrollment increases, though the drop-off is between 1 percent and 5 percent.

At Cottonwood-Oak Creek, enrollment is off by 62 students from a year ago. Though the "why" behind the numbers is far less scientific than the "what," a 62-student decrease at COCSD and a 52-student increase at MUHSD could suggest students graduating from one district and moving on to the other.

Though both COCSD Superintendent Barb U'Ren and District Director of Business Services David Snyder both said that fewer incoming kindergarteners could also be the result of a tough economy forcing families to move to larger communities where they can earn more money to support their families.

Clarkdale-Jerome School District reported a decrease of 26 students from a year ago (5 percent), Sedona Oak Creek School District a decrease of 34 students (3 percent) and Beaver Creek School District a decrease of 10 students (3.5 percent) on their 10-day populations.

Karin Ward, Beaver Creek School District superintendent, echoed the sentiments of both Snyder and U'Ren regarding the decrease in student population.

"In some cases the families cannot find work. In other cases the family cannot find housing in the community as there has been a lack of affordable housing since 2009. In other cases families are moving out of the area," Ward says. "And some families choose to take their students to other schools - each for different reasons. We always welcome students back."

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