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PUSD enrollment spikes; new kindergarten teacher needed at Abia Judd

To their seats for the first day of school in kindergarten at Taylor Hicks Elementary School in Prescott Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, file)

To their seats for the first day of school in kindergarten at Taylor Hicks Elementary School in Prescott Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, file)

Prescott Unified School District leaders are happy to report it appears enrollment is up for the first time in several years.

With fingers crossed, Superintendent Joe Howard shared with Governing Board members Tuesday night that if enrollments hold strong the district will have about 100 more students than it did when the 2018-19 school year started last year.

Administrators explained that the key date will be Day 10 after the district accounts for any no-shows or students either enrolling or departing a school. The district’s per-pupil reimbursement, that averages about $5,000 each based on Average Daily Membership, is calculated on the 100th day of school.

Prescott last year was funded based on an ADM of 3,620 students in its six schools.

Abia Judd Elementary is hiring a fifth kindergarten teacher to help reduce higher-than-desired class sizes. Some of the kindergarten classes at Taylor Hicks and Lincoln Elementary are also higher than usual. This new class would be an option for those parents, too, Howard said.

Elementary grade class sizes are expected to be kept in the low-20 range.

In a note to parents, Abia Judd Principal Stephanie Hillig explained that the district is now interviewing candidates and meeting with current kindergarten teachers in all the schools to determine how to best balance class sizes.

The addition of another kindergarten class by next week will mean some students now in one class will be relocated to a new one, she advised.

“It is important to remember that if your child is one of the children who go into the new classroom, we will be providing ongoing support through the transition,” Hillig said in the parent notice. “We must approach this as a team, your support in this will be critical. If you approach it with a positive and supportive attitude so will your child.

“There are many disadvantages to a large class size that even an experienced teacher can have difficulty overcoming.”

Hillig noted that class size impacts the ability for a teacher to differentiate instruction to meet particular children’s needs; lower class sizes prevent serious behavior problems and enable students to remain focused; allow students and teachers to forge strong bonds and enable the teacher to better communicate with families.

“Research has proven the importance of small class sizes. Kindergarten is the foundational stage that sets the stage for students’ academic success for years to come. It is crucial that we provide our kindergarteners with every chance of success,” Hillig said.

In other district business, the Governing Board on Tuesday:

• Accepted a $25,000 donation from the Prescott Area Young Professionals from its Party in the Pines fundraiser.

• Approved an AmeriCorp Vista arrangement that will provide the district with two Vista volunteers for the same $10,000 price charged last year for one. One of the volunteers will focus on attendance success with students deemed to be missing an excessive number of school days. The other vista volunteer will be creating a district model for farm-to-school initiatives integrated into the core curriculum. The volunteer will be working with various organizations, including local master gardeners, to create a sustainable program with increased use of gardens and outdoor learning experiences in the schools.

• Approved hiring a Yavapai College student through a federal work study program to work as a reading tutor at the preschool and elementary levels.

• Continued in a second-year agreement with the Prescott Police Department for a school resource officer at the high school. The agreement requires the district to fund $75,000 of the annual salary and benefits – about $85,000 – with the city covering the remaining 25%.

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