Flagstaff, AZ – TB) On this cold December afternoon at Sinagua High school Students are walking home .others are climbing on school buses or walking toward their cars. ..and while the parking lot is full of activity enrollment is down . Superintendent Kevin Brown says by closing one of Flagstaff's high schools, overhead could be reduced and more programs could be offered at the 2 remaining schools.
KEVIN BROWN) what is the breadth of program we can offer or the relationship between the programs we can offer and the number of students in a particular setting that if we do have smaller populations how do we retain the breadth of programs."
TB) District wide, there are about 200 fewer high school students compared to last year . Overall grade school enrollment is also down. Some families are choosing charter schools and others are moving to more affordable communities.
(bring up sound of community forum including an audience member asking a question)
TB) Many of the 600 or so people who showed up for a series of public forums this fall posed hard questions to district officials. Administrators have laid out 6 options for restructuring the district. One scenario maintains the status quo another would send all 9th graders in the district to Sinagua High school and another would retire Flagstaff High.
Beth Heerding) "I think that most people are ready for change but they may not all be on the same page as far as what that change or what portion of our system needs to be changed. "
TB) Beth Heerding is on the Flagstaff School Board. She says there's been a lot of productive feedback at the forums and online.
Beth Heerding) I think the community is really starting to understand that we need to do something. There has been a perception that our minds are made up and a decision is already made. That's absolutely not true. We are looking for a better solution than what we have right now.
TB) Flagstaff isn't he only northern Arizona community that's faced declining enrollment Not long ago the Prescott Unified School district went through 8 years of dwindling student populations says. Kevin Kapp is the District's Superintendent.
Kevin Kapp " Prescott like Flagstaff is fairly landlocked in its ability to attract families. There's not a lot of room for low cost housing and we have similar problems that flagstaff has in terms of there's just not enough young children to go to school here."
TB VO) So, 6 years ago Prescott Unified opened its doors to students in outlying communities. Now students from cities like Chino and Prescott Valley make up about 12 percent of the district.
Kevin Kapp "and that has pretty much helped us maintain our enrollment growth without these students from out of district Prescott would probably be in a declining mode and as we all know that's not very pleasant to go through."
TB) Now some are suggesting that Prescott Unified build another high school. Kapp says when he ears that, he points to Flagstaff's challenges.
(Sound of School buses going by)
TB ) In a minivan outside Flagstaff high, Cheryl Hartman waits for her daughter, a sophomore She says she understands the need for relocating students in the district, but IS disappointed by the timing.
Cheryl Hartman) "they just spent a great deal of money at Sinagua they just spent a great deal of money at Coconino on their fields they also just spent a great deal of money here at the facilities at Flag High and I think there really needed to be some foresight, they really needed to look at it long before they took care of those facilities and decided what they needed to do rather than spending all that money."
TB) The school district's facilities committee is expected to present its findings along with community input to the school board next month.
In Flagstaff For AZ Public Radio, I'm Theresa Bierer