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Housing, charters may impact future growth of CG high schools

CASA GRANDE — New jobs from companies such as Lucid Motors and Nikola Motor Company and new housing may bring more students into the Casa Grande area in the next 10 years, but it may not bring a great increase in the number of students enrolled in Casa Grande Union High School District schools.

There are numerous reasons why the district may not see a great deal of enrollment growth over the next 10 years, Rick Brammer, from Applied Economics, a consultant hired by the district, told the school board Tuesday.

The most common reasons are two dips in the childbirth rate for the state and the county over the last 10 years due to the recession, an increase in the number of charter schools in the district’s area, and the number of residents between the ages of 34 and 54 living in the Casa Grande area dropped during the recession. Residents of that age are the most likely demographic to have families with children who are of high school age, he said.

The birth rate dropped by 19% in the state and more than 27% for the county between 2007 and 2011, Brammer said. It dipped again between 2014 and 2018 by nearly 13% for both the state and county.

The drop in birth rate is important because that means that there will be fewer future high school students in the next 10 years, he said. The birth rate may pick up again with a better economy and as more families move into the area due to new jobs at Lucid and Nikola, but millennials are waiting longer to have children.

Another reason why current enrollment is down and what could be an impact to future enrollment is an increase in the number of charter schools in the district, Brammer said. During the 2010-11 school year, the city only had two high school-level charter schools, which served about 187 students. By the 2019-20 school year, two additional high school charters had been built and the number of students served by all four charter schools had grown to more than 500 students.

Brammer warned that the new jobs from Nikola and Lucid would not only bring in more families with more high school students but could also attract the attention of new charter schools to the area.

He pointed to what happened to the Queen Creek school district during the housing boom. The district didn’t have the funds to build new schools during the housing boom and a number of charter schools moved in to take up slack.

Despite all of these factors, Brammer estimated that the district would continue to see a small amount of growth in enrollment over the next three years. How much the district’s enrollment would grow beyond that would depend on how many families move into the area due to the jobs proposed by Nikola and Lucid and how quickly new charter schools move in to take advantage of the growth in high school-aged students.

The board also:

  • Approved new classes to be added to the curriculum. The new classes include a fine arts class, making the CGUHS Blue Notes a separate class from choir, beginning guitar, adding a second year of automation and robotics at Vista Grande High and adding a fourth year of marketing, welding and precalculus to both schools.
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight travel for several student groups and sports teams.
  • Received reports during a study session at 5:30 p.m. on the district office, freshman academies and the solar valuation analysis.