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Thu, Dec. 12

HUSD feeling growth's pinch; Campuses juggling overflow

PRESCOTT VALLEY — A kindergartner waited with his father at a corner for his school bus Wednesday morning.

Quickly piping the answer to questions about his age, his first day of school and his teacher, the youngster paused when asked which school he goes to. Coyote Springs, his dad filled in. "But not right now."

Four kindergarten classes — an early session and a late session for two teachers are at Liberty Traditional School temporarily.

Coyote Springs Elementary School is full and overflowing with 713 students on campus Tuesday, but nearly 800 students are on the registration records with more coming in daily.

That means the four classes of Coyote Springs kindergartners climb on school buses that take them to Liberty — where the district does have space — until their own portable classrooms are ready on campus, Principal Marcia Gatti-Smith said.

The Humboldt Unified School District has surpassed the 5,000-student mark, blowing away the 1999-2000 school-year count of 4,904 with a second-day actual student count of 5,208 students.

The high school has been hit hardest with nearly 1,500 students — the cutoff number for this high school. But district officials realize that number could increase, maybe to 1,800 students before the new high school opens in fall 2002.

"The high school is where our significant growth has occurred," Superintendent Ron Maughan said.

He said the elementary number is somewhat misleading, since the preschool numbers aren't included yet — the district still is testing and placing those students.

But the elementary growth isn't nearly as heavy as the high school increases.

"People are moving into our district with older children," Maughan said. "It follows the national trend. The birth rate is lower. The senior class is bigger than the first grade class."

Maughan said it will be a squeeze at the high school until the district can open the new school's doors. But the high school is really where the district needs the room.

"The long and short of it is the building program is on track," he said.

The district governing board also agreed to a lease purchase agreement with County Bank to lease the additional portable classrooms.

The two, two-classroom buildings will go to Coyote Springs, where the campus already has a portable classroom, and Mountain View Elementary.

The district has a fourth portable on site at Lake Valley Elementary.

The lease cost for each of the two buildings is $10,285 per year for five years, at which time the district can buy the portable classroom for $1 if it chooses.

However, if the district buys the portable building, it becomes permanent space the district must count when it tries to qualify for new school buildings, Maughan said.

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