High school students in McDowell Mountain Ranch will be assigned to Desert Mountain High School starting with this fall’s ninth-grade class. The Scottsdale Unified School District’s governing board decided to change the school assignment from Saguaro High School on a 4-1 vote, with board member Molly Holzer dissenting.
Students living in McDowell Mountain Ranch currently go to Desert Canyon Middle School in eighth grade, then are sent to Saguaro High School. This requires those students to travel past two high schools to get to school and splits the students at Desert Canyon between Desert Mountain and Saguaro once they get to ninth grade.
While Holzer supported sending McDowell Mountain Ranch students to Desert Mountain, she was concerned about what that meant for crowding at the school. She asked for a comprehensive plan that addressed all schools and buildings in the district, something she pointed out she’s asked for many times before.
“If we’re going to do this, I really wish that we’d do this right. Placing a third of our high school kids at one school is not what our community wanted,” Holzer said. “I can’t support this. I want MMR at Desert Mountain High School, but this is a Band-Aid.”
Board member Eric Meyer pointed out that this plan would add only about 100 students to Desert Mountain, based on projections and with approximately one-third of the district’s high school students going to the school already.
And Karen Beckvar, board president, brought up what she called the “elephant in the room”: the potential for future boundary changes.
Since the board is considering other school consolidations that would go into effect in 2009-10, other boundary changes could also be discussed later, Beckvar said.
“Just because we make this decision at this point doesn’t preclude us from changing someone out of Desert Mountain in the future,” she said. “I’d like to go ahead with this one because I think we can handle it.”
While there was also disagreement regarding the capacities at each school, district staff said they believed there is room at Desert Mountain for the influx of students. Nevertheless, the district plans to audit school capacity in the future.
About 750 high school-age students live in the area, with about one-third going to Saguaro High and one-third each open-enrolling at Desert Mountain or Chaparral high schools, said David Peterson, the district’s assistant superintendent for operations.
Based on those numbers, the district expects an additional 62 ninth-grade students at Desert Mountain High School next year, Peterson said.
In four years, it expects 243 additional McDowell Mountain Ranch dwellers in ninth through 12th grades. That’s an estimated 2,484 students at Desert Mountain by fall of 2011, although staff members acknowledged that assumes students continue attending Chaparral at the current rate.