The Scottsdale Unified School District Anasazi Elementary

The Scottsdale Unified School District removed Anasazi Elementary from an enrollment growth plan, providing more certainty about the school’s future.

The future of Anasazi Elementary and Echo Canyon schools is on solid ground after the Scottsdale Unified School District removed them from enrollment growth plans adopted by the Governing Board last year.

The plans, which could have led to closure or consolidation, were adopted in November 2018 to spur enrollment growth at the elementary schools with the lowest enrollment.

The two other schools on the growth list, Navajo and Yavapai elementary schools, did not show the same growth as Echo Canyon and Anasazi but won reprieves due to extenuating circumstances.

The two-year growth plans aimed at 400 students– the minimum enrollment considered sustainable for elementary schools under Arizona’s current school-funding model.

“There’s four schools below 400, which is kind of a threshold we looking at in terms of is it efficient,” said Rick Brammer, a consultant with Applied Economics, which has performed multiple demographics studies for the district.

The goals were a 10 percent enrollment growth in the first year and a total of 400 K-5 students in the second, excluding pre-K students.

The schools were required to identify specialty programs, such as Anasazi’s move to become an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, to spur growth.

However, on Nov. 19, district leadership included pre-K enrollment in order to remove at least one school from the list.

With preschool excluded, none of the four schools reached the 10 percent target in the first year, according to information provided by the district. 

However, both Anasazi and Echo Canyon still managed to exceed 400 K-5 students as of Nov. 8, according to the district.

Anasazi’s current K-5 enrollment is 403 students, below its 10 percent growth target of 415 students. However, with preschool included, Anasazi far exceeded the target with 447 students.

Anasazi’s K-5 enrollment was 378 in 2018 and was only expected to reach 369 students in 2019.

“Anasazi’s history of academic excellence as an A-rated school and its journey to become a premier International Baccalaureate World School resulted in strong enrollment growth,” Anasazi Principal Jen Waldron said. “We are celebrating our achievement, and want to thank our community, dedicated staff and SUSD for their devotion and support of Anasazi and the students we serve.”

Assistant Superintendent Ibi Haghighat indicated at the board’s Nov. 19 meeting, the district considered Anasazi’s K-5 enrollment and strong preschool numbers in removing the school from the growth plan.

Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard, who initially proposed the growth plans, said Anasazi demonstrated its ability to substantially grow enrollment, thus satisfying the goal of the program.

“We feel at Anasazi there’s been significant growth; the trend is upward,” Kriekard said.

Echo Canyon reached 400 K-5 students exactly in 2019, well below its 10 percent goal of 429 students. Even with pre-K enrollment included, the school has an enrollment of 418 students.

However, the district still removed Echo Canyon from the growth plan list based on the actual capacity of the school – information the district did not have when it first created the enrollment targets.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” Echo Canyon Principal Kat Hughes said. “We really worked hard over past 12 months to increase enrollment, increase academics and build programs built on sustainability with partnerships with ASU.”

Kriekard said he agreed with a parent who told the board Echo Canyon probably should not have been on the list in the first place and it likely would not have been on the list “had we done the capacity study first.”

The district recently performed a capacity study for all learning communities and found Echo Canyon’s Pre-K-5 section is operating at 86 percent capacity.

“Now we have our capacity study, we are able to really, with more accuracy, know what some of our schools are able to have as part of their program and not overcrowd them,” Haghighat said.

Hughes said she was grateful for the capacity study.

“I appreciate it was acknowledged,” Hughes said. “It’s something we at Echo Canyon have known for a while, but we also know community at large has had the misperception we are only half full and we’re not.”

Neither Navajo nor Yavapai came close to meeting the 10 percent growth goals but extenuating circumstances led the district to allow the schools to continue on the plans for the time being.

An August 2018 fire forced Navajo to a temporary campus for more than a year, making enrollment growth difficult, officials said.

“We know they had a little bit of growth and we also know we want to see them grow through the STEAM Discovery Ed initiative we already have in place,” Haghighat said.

In October, the board approved $126,000 for both Navajo and Laguna Elementary to contract with Discovery Ed to pursue a three-year-long STEAM accreditation.

Kriekard applauded Navajo for even maintaining its enrollment through the chaos caused by the fire and move to a temporary campus.

Navajo is expected to return to its renovated home campus after winter break, Principal Matt Patzlaff said.

Its K-5 enrollment of 340 students in 2019 missed the 10 percent growth mark by 38 students but far exceeded Applied Economics projections. With preschool included, Navajo is at 397 students.

In 2018, Applied Economic projected Navajo’s K-5 enrollment would drop from 342 to 321 in 2019.

Patzlaff, the Navajo principal, told the Progress he believed the school would see enrollment growth when it returns to its home campus, which has been renovated and outfitted to support the school’s STEAM program.

Yavapai is the only school on the list who lost K-5 enrollment the past year – from 262 to 243 students this year.

It is also the school most at risk of being consolidated.

Yavapai currently shares its campus with Hohokam Elementary as the school’s home campus is being rebuilt.

A letter sent to parents announcing the campus-sharing plan stated Yavapai students could be consolidated into Hohokam once the rebuild is complete.

The co-campus plan caused concern for some Yavapai parents when it was announced in April 2019 due to the belief it would hurt the school’s ability to grow its own enrollment.

Heather Winn, a Yavapai parent, told the Progress in April she believed the co-location plan, implanted months after the growth plan decision, would hurt Yavapai’s ability to attract students.

“Now just five months later they are now bringing Hohokam over and not just adding to our campus but replacing some of our staff with theirs,” Wolf said.

District spokesperson Amy Bolton denied the plan affected Yavapai’s ability to grow.

“There is space for additional students. So, Hohokam is not negatively impacting the ability for Yavapai growth,” Bolton said.

District leadership seemingly contradicted the contention, although, as information presented to the board stated: “The temporary merger of Hohokam with Yavapai may have deterred growth.”

Though Haghighat said staff is recommending keeping the growth plan for the time being, Kriekard said a decision could be made on Yavapai sooner rather than later.

Kriekard said the district could come forward as soon as December to discuss plans for the future of the Coronado Learning Community, which includes Yavapai.

“We are planning on having more discussions with the school communities there for the future of the Coronado complex and Yavapai will be a part of that, so we may come sooner than next year.”

Kriekard said any decisions made about the future of Yavapai would not take effect until the Hohokam campus construction is complete in 2021.