FUSD

FLORENCE — Superintendent Chris Knutsen said in a video message to the community this summer that homebuilding continues and the district needs to be forward-thinking about its future needs.

When the Johnson Ranch area first began to boom some 20 years ago, Florence Unified School District went from 1,500 students to 6,000 in just a few years, Knutsen said. “It was a very difficult time. … The infrastructure wasn’t there.

“We need to go out for a bond to address the hyper-growth that is coming to FUSD,” Knutsen said. District voters will be asked to approve a $75 million bond issue in Tuesday’s election.

An analysis conducted for FUSD by Applied Economics of Phoenix indicates FUSD, which is already serving almost 10,000 students, isn’t done growing.

Construction within the district has been on the upswing since 2016. About 75% of the recent residential development has been in San Tan Valley. About 23% has been south of there, primarily at Anthem at Merrill Ranch in Florence.

The district has the potential to add more than 170,000 homes. Future development is expected to favor the San Tan Valley area as it becomes more accessible with new and better infrastructure. While housing in the district is still largely entry level, there are now a variety of options available, which increases the stability of the local housing market.

The district is expected to add about 50,300 people by 2031, reaching a total population of about 138,500. More than 21,000 new houses are expected to result in nearly 17,600 new households. For FUSD, there will be a net increase of 2,800 students, or a 31% increase.

In 10 years, Florence High is projected to be the district’s largest high school with nearly 1,800 students, followed by Poston Butte with nearly 1,400 and San Tan Foothills with 900.

Among the K-8 schools, the largest enrollment increase is expected in Anthem, with more than 500 new students in five years. Magma Ranch is expected to grow by 386 and San Tan Heights by 353. Enrollment in Florence has been flat but is expected to increase slightly, by about 125.

In the next six to 10 years, enrollment gains will continue to be strong in Anthem and accelerate in Magma Ranch, with slower growth in San Tan Heights. Moderate losses are projected in the district’s other K-8s.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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