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2:56 AM Sat, Sept. 22nd

Not at Humboldt's expense<BR>PUSD cites returnees, move-ins as growth sources

PRESCOTT – A study of student ZIP codes indicates that Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) made this fall's long-sought-for enrollment gain of 105 students mostly from charter school returnees and move-ins rather than at the expense of the Humboldt and Chino Valley school districts.

During a press conference Thursday, Supt. Kevin J. Kapp said the study shows that PUSD drew a total of 195 students this year from Prescott Valley and vicinity, Humboldt Unified's territory. That's 32 more than in the 2001-02 school year.

Further, PUSD got 93 of the students, or seven more than this past school year, from Chino Valley and vicinity. That's an increase of 39 students from both Prescott Valley and Chino Valley, or 40 percent of PUSD's enrollment surge.

"It is a piece of it, but it's not the overwhelming number that I think (might lead to) the perception that all of our growth was due to Humboldt's problems," Kapp said. "That's not true."

Humboldt Unified School District is experiencing declining enrollment and stiff charter school competition but is working to overcome them.

Kapp traced the remaining 60 percent of PUSD's enrollment growth to parents who are returning their children to district schools after trying charter schools and to families moving into town. PUSD's marketing program, which places brochures in real estate offices, likely is responsible for attracting those new families to PUSD, he noted.

After several years of declining enrollment, PUSD's 40-day count this fall was 4,760 students – 105 students more than on the same day in 2001.

Of that, Prescott High School's enrollment was 1,648, an increase of 112 students over the previous year. Kapp maintained that 59, or13 more than 2001-02, of those new students are from Prescott Valley and vicinity, and 38, or nine more, are from Chino Valley.

"What's interesting to me is that even last year we had 249 students attending Prescott Unified with ZIP codes outside of Prescott Unified," Kapp said. "With state law allowing open enrollment, we aren't busing these children. It's probably families working in Prescott and living in Prescott Valley or Chino Valley, and they just decided, 'On my way to work, I'll drop my child off at Washington (Traditional) or Taylor Hicks (Elementary) and pick them up on the way out.'"

Before open enrollment, PUSD would have billed the other districts for tuition, and they wouldn't have been happy about that, Kapp maintained.

"But with open enrollment, kids move around pretty freely, and as long as we have room, we'll take them," said Kapp.

Kapp maintained that PUSD experiences a near constant flow of children leaving the district for charter schools and returning from them.

"The returnees seem to be running ahead of the departures," Kapp said, "and with our marketing, we're a little more visible to people moving into town, and I think they're analyzing Prescott Unified a little closer instead of just maybe wandering to a charter school right away."

Contact Louise Koniarski at lkoniarski@prescottaz.com or 445-8179 ext. 2038.