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Wed, Feb. 19

HUSD enrollment growth slightly short of predictions

PRESCOTT VALLEY — The Humboldt Unified School District's enrollment figures has increased by more than 230 students.

That sounds like a huge number, but actually, it's smaller than the district expected this year's increase to be, especially at the high school level.

District administrators showed the district's average daily membership (ADM) counts as of the 40th day of school, during the board's regular meeting Tuesday.

The report was part of the district's School Facilities Board 2000-01 Capital Plan and New Construction Project Request.

Average daily membership is a weighted enrollment count, with one-half an enrollment for preschool and kindergarten students, and absences decreasing the numbers slightly.

According to those numbers, the district had the least growth at the high school level, with about 15 more students than last year's 40th-day ADM count.

The elementary school ADM grew by about 128 students, and middle school enrollment, including middle-school students at Liberty Traditional School, grew by about 88 students.

In all, average daily membership grew from 4,861.13 at this point in 1999-2000, to 5092.55 in 2000-01.

The counts went to the School Facilities Board, as the district's on-going documentation its need for new schools.

The district already has received the go-ahead to build the first of two phases for a new high school, to open in fall 2002.

The district will soon add an elementary school and middle school, but the School Facilities Board will determine when the district gets on the building list for those schools.

Superintendent Ron Maughan said the School Facilities Board has been hinting that it might phase construction for elementary and middle schools as it has been doing for high schools.

The HUSD administration and board agree that while phased construction of a high school is acceptable, and even advantageous, phased construction of an elementary or middle school is not.

Both types of schools tend to be smaller and compact. Sending students to the school for a year or two, then opening up the school grounds to further construction, would hinder the learning process, and may even be a safety problem, Maughan said.

Maughan said the slowdown in high school enrollment growth — what he called a "softening" in the growth figures — is a surprise. However, he doesn't think it will have any immediate impact.

The district already needs additional high school space, he said. That's why the School Facilities Board allotted them money for the first phase of construction.

He added that if the trend continues, the district might not qualify for the second phase of the new high school until a year or two later than it expected.

He said with new area high school charters, students opting to go to Excel, Tri-City Prep or Kestrel might have taken some of the pressure off.

However, board members don't think the slowdown will last.

"We'll probably find ourselves behind the curve," Board Member Craig Sorenson said. "The softness in numbers may have been due to some ballot measures. Pretty soon those subdivisions are going to be going full-speed ahead."

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