Press Pass: Student exodus repeats; what should Prescott do?

Tim Wiederaenders/Courier illustration

Tim Wiederaenders/Courier illustration

Five years ago, the Chino Valley school district lost 164 students, for a decrease of 5.9 percent in enrollment. "(It is) the largest decline amongst the four school districts in the area," then-Superintendent Duane Noggle said.

Back to present day, Prescott Unified School District is facing a similar debacle: more than 200 students have exited PUSD - equating to a loss of state funding upwards of $2 million, officials estimate.

Back in 2009, Chino Valley tightened its belt in many ways. The most public or noticeable was the shift to a four-day week.

Preparing for 2015-16, Prescott school board members are weighing school closures, cutting programs, a four-day week, the sale of district property, among other solutions.

Where did the students go? While PUSD has not determined (or released) the current info, in 2009 Noggle said 43 students left to attend local charter schools, while 17 went to online schools and 63 defected to neighboring districts. An additional 41 students moved out of the area.

Let's consider that 2009 was near the official end of the Great Recession. The current education landscape has changed little, even though the Prescott area now has more charter schools than ever.

It is easy to apply the oxymoron "quality education."

On one hand, Arizona ranks very low in the nation - some say 49th - in "spending" on education, while others say 49th or so in results, depending on what aspects, years or tests you examine (or which entity is doing the analysis).

At the same time, Arizona leads the nation in "innovation," according to trade/industry journals and statistics, regarding charter schools. At a minimum, we are near the top of the list because of how many we have.

An interesting aside, however, on the charter front is what Noggle told his school board in 2009. "The public doesn't know charter schools don't have to have certified teachers. We need to do a better job in advertising and educating parents."

Prescott school officials face a definite challenge. Closing schools? Selling property? Cutting programs? Moving to a four-day week? At this point, we're told, nothing is off the table.

Ahead of the upcoming meetings and public hearings (see the link below), what do you think the solutions (or reasons) are for Prescott?