Student enrollment within Tempe Union High School District boundaries has dropped close to 5 percent over the last 10 years, but the district has been able to mostly offset that number due to increased enrollment of out-of-district students.
Total in-district enrollment of the seven TUHSD high schools, which includes both Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe, stood at 12,440 during the 2001-02 school year. That number has fallen to 11,849 for the 2011-12 school year, but the amount of students from outside district lines has jumped significantly over that time frame, from 400 in 2001-02, or about 4 percent, to over 2,000 for 2011-12, which is over 15 percent of the total.
Overall, enrollment in TUHSD schools has increased about 1,000 students over that time period.
“The best advertisement for our district is the performance of our students,” TUHSD superintendent Dr. Kenneth Baca said. “It is what speaks to an increasing out-of-district population.”
Mountain Pointe has seen the largest increase in its out-of-district population, accounting for 669 students, many of whom are bused in from Maricopa.
The district has seen low housing turnover within district boundaries, which has led to an increased average age.
District administrators predict that in-district attendance numbers will continue to fall over the next 10 years, but also expect the out-of-district enrollment to continue to climb and peak at around 20 percent in the 2021-22 school year.
“The city of Tempe has recognized their housing trends have changed,” Baca said. “They have changed to a population that is aging and do not have kids, or their kids have moved away to college, which tells you that when they live in Tempe, they want to remain in Tempe.”
TUHSD must also weather increased competition of charter and private schools in the area. But he said that when you look at the hard numbers — test scores, percentage of students who graduate and move on to higher learning — they are competitive with these other choices for parents.
“I believe we have just as good if not better education system to offer (than private or charter schools),” he said. “Our teachers work hard to ensure that they know the appropriate strategy for success. We focus on what we are trusted to do so our students have the opportunities to learn and compete. We continuously challenge ourselves to have a rigorous course of study.”
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