School districts adjust to unexpected growth - East Valley Tribune: News

School districts adjust to unexpected growth

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Posted: Friday, August 15, 2008 6:12 pm | Updated: 9:03 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The Higley, Gilbert, Queen Creek and Florence school districts were forced to add classes and hire extra teachers after the start of the school year because of unexpected student growth.

Higley, Gilbert districts return to school this week

An increase in student enrollment is not unique just to these districts. Chandler and Scottsdale school districts are also seeing increases. The districts receive more funding as enrollment grows.

Click to view the changes in enrollment

San Tan Foothills High School, a new school in the Coolidge Unified School District, opened Aug. 4 in the Queen Creek area and now has 510 students. Principal Ben Rodriguez said he was expecting about 450 students.

“When it happens, it happens quick,” said Rodriguez, who was an assistant principal at Queen Creek High School last year. “We were prepared for about 500 students, but we didn’t expect it right away.”

The new high school opened after the Florence and Queen Creek unified school districts started school, so any students who weren’t able to get into those districts were welcomed to San Tan Foothills, Rodriguez said.

“We didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “With planning and hiring of staff, it’s been phenomenal. We just fit right in place and ready to roll.”

The school has 190 freshmen, 142 sophomores, 128 juniors and 50 seniors, Rodriguez said.

“We’re very fortunate to have a great staff and to just be able to accommodate all our new students,” he said.

The Gilbert district had to split nine classes, most of those at the kindergarten level, said Dianne Bowers, a district spokesman.

“We’re seeing growth pretty evenly distributed around the district, which is also a nice opportunity for us to see that the growth at the early elementary level is well distributed throughout the district,” Bowers said.

Even though the Higley Unified School District had to add some classes at some of the elementary schools, the district also had to combine some classes that had too few students, said associate superintendent Denise Birdwell.

Cortina, Coronado and Chaparral elementaries added kindergarten classes, while San Tan Elementary combined a third-grade class and Coronado had to combine a fourth-grade class, Birdwell said.

Some science classes at Williams Field High School had more than 40 students, and the district is still working on balancing some of those larger classes as the district finished out its second week of the school year on Friday, Birdwell said.

“We wanted to make sure we saw the whites of their eyes,” before we hired new teachers and added classrooms, Birdwell said. “After the 10-day period, we’ll know more as far as intervention. Next week we hope to stabilize things.”

The Queen Creek school district opened Newell Barney Middle School with about 390 seventh- and eighth-graders.

The district had to add an extra first grade and kindergarten class at Frances Brandon-Pickett Elementary School, and the school had 60 more students than projected, said Principal Erika Copeland.

Queen Creek Elementary had to add a third-grade class on Meet the Teacher night, said Principal Sheri Horton. Desert Mountain Elementary had to hire a last-minute kindergarten teacher, said Principal Bill Schultz.

Queen Creek High Principal Angela Chomokos said the challenge is the schools are constantly enrolling new students.

The Florence school district opened Circle Cross Ranch K-8 on July 21 with 534 students, which was about what was expected, said Larry Cline, a district spokesman.

However, classes had to be split at Walker Butte, Copper Basin and Anthem K-8s because of too many students in the classroom, Cline said.

“But we were able to do that because of anticipated growth and forecast of growth,” Cline said. “We’re pretty much right where we wanted to be, both teacher and student


The district didn’t have to hire any new teachers. Staff anticipated an increase and hired based on that, Cline said.

Next year, the district anticipates an additional 1,200 to 1,500 students when it opens Poston Butte High School, the district’s second high school.

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