By Shawn Byrne
Officials at Wickenburg Unified School District expected a downturn in the number of students enrolled for the 2019-20 school year and budgeted a loss of about 60 students from last year’s total.
That loss did not occur, and although WUSD budgeted for 1,296 students, the actual head count turned out to be 1,354 – down only one student from last year’s 1,355 count. These numbers do not include preschool students, of which there are 18 at Hassayampa Elementary and 33 at Festival Foothills Elementary.
The only school in the district to actually gain students is Festival Foothills in Buckeye. WUSD spans from just north of the Yavapai County line on the north end down to Bell Road in Buckeye near White Tank Mountain Regional Park at its southern border, according to the district website. It includes about 916 square miles.
Festival increased its enrollment from 225 to 256 over last school year. The Festival Foothills housing development is closing about 30 home sales per quarter with 15-18 of those being sold to families, according to Festival Foothills Elementary Principal Julie Case.
The southern area of the district should continue to see growth. Carlson said the City of Buckeye has approved a plan to build a bridge over a Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal. That could lead to more homes in the district with a development called Spurlock Ranch.
WUSD has two additional K-8 sites and a high school site selected in that area.
“As time progresses, you are going to see more and more growth,” Carlson said. “There is more and more going on in that area.”
There is yet another development within the district’s boundaries that is in the planning stages. Mesquite Mountain Ranch, about five miles from Surprise, is starting to be developed as well.
Hassayampa Elementary maintained its enrollment from last year at 318 students. Vulture Peak Middle and Wickenburg High schools each dropped in enrollment. Vulture Peak went down from 238 to 237, and WHS went from 574 to 553.
A further drop in student count could be on the horizon for WHS. Nadaburg Unified School District in Wittmann is trying to get a bond approved so it can start its own high school. NUSD averaged 85 students per grade a year ago, which means there are about 340 high school students from the Wittmann area attending elsewhere.
“Although I don’t have exact numbers,” Carlson wrote in the email, “I believe we have around 112 students who attend Wickenburg H.S. from Nadaburg.”
The remaining students most likely attend a school in the Dysart Unified School District.
“We do need more businesses to come to Wickenburg,” Carlson said.