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Mon, Sept. 23

Northpoint enrollment surpassing expectations

PRESCOTT ­ In less than four weeks, 92 students have registered to attend Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy, which will open this fall to 100 freshmen.

The Prescott Unified School District opened registration for the new high school Jan. 26, Supt. Kevin Kapp reported. The enrollment numbers were current as of Wednesday.

School designer David DenHartog said students still may apply to attend the school, and can remain on a waiting list in case some of the original applicants decide not to attend.

The school district received a $600,000 grant to start Northpoint, but still must cover about 75 percent of the $175,000 in operating costs during this first year of the school's operation.

The state pays districts about $4,500 for each high school student enrolled. Kapp said district administrators believe that if one-half of the 100 freshmen who enroll at the new school come from outside the school district, that will cover the new operating costs.

PUSD Governing Board Member Tom Staley said during a Feb. 14 board meeting that he was concerned about the cost to the district of operating Northpoint.

"I can't help feeling in my gut that we pushed this a little bit too hard, too quickly," he said at that time, estimating that the district would have to bring in about 40 non-district students each year to cover the cost of running the school.

At this point Kapp said enrollment numbers are reflecting that hope ­ about one-half of the students who have enrolled come from outside the district.

That, Staley said Thursday, has made him feel better about the projected cost of running the school.

"I feel much better now that it's paying for itself," he said.

He emphasized that he believes the Expeditionary Learning model is great and that he looks forward to providing more educational alternatives for district students.

DenHartog helped start an Expeditionary Learning high school three years ago in Minnesota, and he said the response in that community wasn't as positive as it has been in Prescott.

Compared with other Expeditionary Learning schools in the country he said, "there is a lot of interest and excitement (in Prescott) about this type of learning and experience for students."

Northpoint's leaders plan to add 100 students to the school each year, reaching the maximum of 400 students in 2009. Of course, as enrollment numbers increase and the grant runs out, the cost of running the school will change, Kapp said.

Students who would have attended Prescott High School deciding to attend Northpoint instead may lower Prescott High School's enrollment enough to transfer a teacher from that school to Northpoint ­ so the district would not incur a "new" cost for that particular teacher.

The Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy, during the first one or two years of its existence, will operate inside the Dexter Family Resource Center on First Street.

Contact the reporter at hdartt@prescottaz.com

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