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For the first time in about two decades, Flagstaff Unified School District student enrollment numbers were up in 2012.

District officials said there were 163 more students at the 40-day mark in October compared with the same time last year. This comes after a combined 10 percent drop over the past two years.

"This is an excellent surprise," Superintendent Barbara Hickman had said, noting that the district had planned on an additional drop of 300 students this year.

The biggest change came in kindergarten, with 112 more students this year.

At the 40-day mark in 2011, FUSD was down by 538 students and the year before that by 461.

This year's unofficial FUSD enrollment is about 9,750. By comparison, it was 12,388 in 1998.

Hickman attributed the kindergarten jump to families with younger children staying in town. And that, Hickman explains, is good for Flagstaff as well as the schools. Ninth-grade numbers were also up by about 20.

Hickman explained the district did not track where students came from.

"It could be our magnet programs," Hickman said. "It's a lot of factors."

This school year, Flagstaff High School started an Advanced Placement Academy with the feeder Pre-AP Academy at Mount Elden Middle School. Coconino High School launched a continuation of the Puente de Hozho Language Institute.

Last year's drop of more than 500 students cost the district $3 million in state subsidies this year. Early enrollment counts have no weight in determining how much funding the district will receive. The 100-day student count is used to calculate next year's per-pupil funding. This year's 100th day is on Jan. 22 (providing there are no more snow days).

The district was able to bring back some of the staff who were let go over the summer. Early in the school year four additional kindergarten, one fifth-grade and two second-grade teachers were hired.

As the school year began, charter schools also saw some changes. Northland Preparatory Academy's enrollment increased by 40 students and Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy's enrollment increased by 20.

Basis School added 103 students in its fifth grade, but it has a net increase in students of just 18, meaning there are fewer returning students in grades 6 through 11.

In other news:

-- FUSD is hosting a pilot teacher evaluation program for the 2012-13 school year. The Arizona Department of Education teacher evaluation program is set to go into effect, statewide, for the 2013-14 school year. Teachers' evaluations will be tied not only to their evaluations by principals but also to their students' performance on standardized tests, such as AIMS, and the school's letter grade. The school's letter grade is based on the overall AIMS score for the school, as well as improvement by lower-scoring students.

-- FUSD middle and high schools adopted class schedules using both traditional and longer -- period classes. The "block schedule" of longer periods allows for longer science labs and other classroom projects and, in the afternoons, student enrichment and intervention.

-- In response to dropping enrollment FUSD implemented a new model for special education students in elementary classrooms that previously had special ed aides. For students with special needs who are already in the classroom for most or all of the school day, a general education teacher will also be responsible for preparing learning plans Individualized Education Programs. These teachers will be certified to teach both elementary and special education. A teacher could have up to three special needs students in their classrooms.

-- Several schools made significant changes this school year, but for a variety of reasons:

* Flagstaff Junior Academy moved its fifth- through eighth-grade classes to the building formerly occupied by Flagstaff Middle School on North Bonito. The classes can now take advantage of the "outdoor classroom" focused on Frances Short Pond.

* Mount Calvary, a Lutheran private school, now only provides preschool and "begindergarten" classes. They formerly provided K-8 education.

* BASIS has advanced its 10th-graders so that it now covers grades five through 11. Next year, 12th grade will be added.

* Enrollment numbers were down for sixth grade at Mountain School, so it is phasing out that grade. This drop in sixth-grade numbers is due to middle schools adding sixth grade.

* Guided by the Montessori model, Haven Montessori, is adding sixth grade. The Montessori model has students learning in multi-age groups based on the level of their development.

-- FUSD is not ready to go forward with a "balanced" calendar for next school year. A balanced calendar contains longer fall and spring breaks and a shorter summer break. Parents and the public provided input on changing the school calendar through two public forums and an online survey. FUSD plans to establish a task force to further study implementing this calendar system within the district.

-- On Election Day, Nov. 6, Sarah Ells and Paul Kulpinski were elected to return to the Flagstaff Unified School District governing board. Christine Fredericks will be joining them for her first term. She is replacing Chris Bavasi, who is stepping down Dec. 31. This was the first time Ells was elected to the board after being appointed in 2010. Kulpinski will be starting his third full term.

-- Flagstaff voters passed, with 64 percent of the vote, FUSD's school bond worth almost $21 million. The bond will pay for building repairs, technology upgrades and transportation. Williams voters also passed a 10 percent override for their school district with 57 percent of the vote. This is a continuation of the override passed in 2007. Page voters, with 57 percent "no" votes, rejected their override measure. This was the second time they rejected the override measure. The Page override would have continued to generate $2.1 million per year for the district.

-- Arizona voters denied the passage of Proposition 204, even though 54 percent of Flagstaff voters voted for it. Prop. 204 would have permanently continued the one-cent sales tax hike for schools. Funds would have gone mostly toward K-12 education, but also help university programs, road construction and health care for the children of the working poor.

FUSD Superintendent Barbara Hickman said in November that Gov. Jan Brewer and state Treasurer Doug Ducey worked hard to defeat the proposition while promising a sustainable financial solution for public education.

"They now need to step up and do it," Hickman said. "They need to follow through."

Cecile LeBlanc can be reached at 556-2261 or cleblanc@azdailysun.com.

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