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Tue, Dec. 10

Bigger and bigger

Coyote Springs Elementary School is overflowing with so many all-day kindergartners this year, Principal Susan Fahrni wants the school board to hire a new teacher.

Humboldt Unified School District quickly is finding itself to be the fastest growing school district in the tri-city area. Phil Young, the district's human resources director, said HUSD has been growing 8 percent for the past three years. He projects the district will grow an additional 8 percent this year.

As a comparison, the Prescott Unified School District has grown at an annual average of 2.4 percent over the past four years, said Superintendent Kevin Kapp. The Chino Valley Unified School District grew a total of 7 percent throughout the past four years combined, according to the administrative assistant to Chino's superintendent, Desiree Holloway.

"We don't have a problem getting students," Fahrni said about Coyote Springs.

Even HUSD Superintendent Henry Schmitt said Liberty Traditional School and Bradshaw Mountain High School ­ east and west campuses ­ are growing 12 percent annually.

Fahrni attributes the district's growth to the affordable housing in the Prescott Valley and Dewey-Humboldt areas. In addition, she said HUSD has a good reputation.

"I talk to more and more parents that go online, check the schools and then choose where to live," she said.

Young said the district experienced a growth of more than 10 percent in its kindergarten classes this year. Fahrni attributes this growth to the free all-day kindergarten program, as well as normal district growth. As more students come to the school, she needs to hire more teachers. She said HUSD has been supportive of these compensations as well.

For the 2005-06 school year, Young said the district spent about $2.5 million on new staff.

"More students mean you need more staff," he said, adding that this year, the district is looking to hire an additional 30 teachers.

Schmitt said the district is growing so much, so fast, because of the available space.

"We are not landlocked," he said. "It's a very desirable part of the country to live in."

In addition, he believes HUSD offers quality education, which people notice. While Young said the district's greatest challenge is offering adequate space for the growth, Schmitt has another idea.

"The biggest challenge right now is construction of new buildings," he said, adding that the process of receiving approval for a new school, building the school and occupying it within the allotted time can be difficult.

Young said in the 2005-06 school year, HUSD opened Granville Elementary School, which serves kindergarten through fifth grade, and the Bradshaw Mountain East Campus, that serves all the ninth-graders in the district. In addition, HUSD plans to open a middle school in Pronghorn Ranch during the 2008-09 year.

Both Young and Schmitt said HUSD has been planning for and expecting this growth for years.

"I'm planning as we speak for next year ­ and I'm planning for the next five years," Schmitt said.

Young has the same outlook. "We're looking for every possible space we can use for the kids," he said.

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