District may need second high school

MUSD board members look at predictions of serious enrollment growth. Photo by Michelle Chance

A report on enrollment growth from a Phoenix-based consulting firm prompted cautious optimism from school leaders Wednesday.

Rick Brammer and Don Graves with Applied Economics presented their projections to the Maricopa Unified School District Feb. 28.

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The consultants estimated the district could see between 4,100 and 5,800 students added to MUSD in the next decade. They attribute their projections, in part, to Maricopa’s resurrected housing growth and likely demographics.

“It’s accelerating quickly, but in the next three to five years, it’s really going to explode,” Brammer said, adding growth will be off-set by charter schools.

Unlike many parts of the metropolitan area, the demographic characteristics of the population continue to reflect a high concentration of young families and school-age persons, according to the report.

Within five to seven years, the firm predicts the MUSD’s high school population will increase by 95 percent.

“That’s pretty frightening,” Board Member Torri Anderson said, “the fact that we’ve only got one high school.”

Maricopa High School hit an all-time enrollment high this school year and added a credit-recovery option called Ram Academy in the fall.

Board Member Patti Coutré said the report’s projections are not surprising.

“It confirms what we’ve anticipated and have been trying to put our head around,” Coutré said.

Rick Brammer. Photo by Michelle Chance

At the elementary level, the report predicts that in the next five years, new housing developments will impact enrollment growth at Saddleback and Santa Cruz elementary schools.

Brammer suggested the board may have to consider redistricting those areas or adding facilities to accommodate new students.

District Business Services Director Aron Rausch is expected to present a list of properties to the board at a future meeting where the board will discuss the likelihood of constructing a second high school.

Discussion for the project’s funding was suggested through a possible bond on the upcoming November ballot. Rausch and MUSD Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said, if approved, the bond would have to be submitted to the County Election Department by mid-August.

“Of course, the district would need to do significant work in preparation and also seek Board approval prior to announcing our intent to ask voters for a bond,” Beckett said.

The district discussed making temporary solutions for additional space at MHS by adding modular buildings on a parking lot adjacent to its baseball fields and possibly sending Ram Academy students to class in a leased store-front or at the District Administration Building in the future.

However, the board said any proposals discussed will be more confidently debated after Rausch’s property analysis is submitted in the coming weeks.

Leading MUSD through anticipated growth will be at the forefront of its future superintendent as its current top administrator begins a transition to his new position months ahead of his prior contracted last day on the job.

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