The competition for students is heating up on Mesa’s west side as the Tempe Elementary School District tries to fill one of its schools with children from the Mesa Unified School District.
The Tempe district recently blanketed homes and apartments along its border in west Mesa with door hangers that aim to recruit students into the nearby Bustoz Elementary School, 2020 E. Carson Drive.
Tempe isn’t trying to start a border war; it’s just trying to fill a near-empty school, said district spokeswoman Monica Allread.
“We don’t do a lot of out-ofdistrict marketing, but if you look at where Bustoz is, it’s less than a mile to our border,” she said.
The school’s enrollment was down to roughly 300 this year, she said, and officials worried that if they lost any more children, they would have to cut some services and program.
“It’s a great school and it’s really convenient . . . but it’s tucked in a little neighborhood. We wanted to get the word out,” Allread said.
The Tempe district is seeing declining enrollment, in part, due to fewer families with young children moving to the area, said Gary Aungst, director of community affairs and marketing.
“Tempe is building high-rise condos, but those are $300,000 to $3 million. How many families can afford a $3 million condo?” he said. “If we can’t generate (student growth) internally and we want to keep the same programs and jobs, well, this is what public education has to do today.”
Roughly 590 students from the Mesa district currently attend the Tempe district, Aungst said.
The Mesa district advertises where parents from other school districts might see, but it doesn’t specifically target them, said Joe O’Reilly, Mesa district’s executive director for student achievement support.
“We don’t go into the other districts. We do advertise in the paper and movie (theaters) and if people come to us, they do. But we don’t actively go to homes in other districts,” he said.
Enrollment in Mesa schools dropped last year by roughly 700 students, which the Mesa administration has blamed mostly on charter schools, not neighboring school districts.
This year, Mesa’s enrollment went back up by more than 200, but most of that growth came from high school students.
In the future, parents could be targeted by more marketing campaigns from the school districts. Kathy Bareiss, spokeswoman for Mesa schools, didn’t rule out the possibility of her district using tactics similar to those of Tempe Elementary.
“As we review our communication method, there may be some other kinds of items to inform parents about our options as a school choice. We’re always looking at new ways to do that,” she said.