Nate Miller, an Arrowhead resident, speaks at the Deer Valley Unified School District meeting.

Nate Miller, an Arrowhead resident, speaks at the Deer Valley Unified School District meeting. (Photo: Jen Fifield / The Republic)

Children who live in some of the expensive neighborhoods of Arrowhead Ranch in Glendale can be sent to a low-performing high school, under changes in the boundaries being considered by the Governing Board of the Deer Valley Unified School District.

Parents protest the change, which would feed students living south of Loop 101, north of Bell Road and west of 67th Avenue at Deer Valley High School instead of Mountain Ridge High School.

Mountain Ridge is a school with an "A" rating under the Arizona school grade system. Deer Valley is a school with a "B" rating.

The meeting was scheduled to vote on the change on Tuesday, but members voted unanimously to postpone it until January 28 after hearing the concerns.

Arrowhead Ranch residents, both parents and non-parents, are convinced that their children's education and property values ​​will be affected.

"He wants to send his children to a school where he meets their needs and where they thrive," said Sarah Olney, who has three children and lives in the affected area.

School district leaders say Change is necessary to match enrollment between district high schools and delay the construction of another high school.

"This will help us make better use of existing high school campuses and delay the need to build a new high school (which would cost more than $ 100 million)," said Jim Migliorino, an assistant district superintendent, in an email.

Parents, as well as at least two of the five members of the board of directors, say they do not see how the numbers support those claims.

New neighborhood stimulates boundary changes

The district, which covers parts of Glendale, Peoria and Phoenix, is reconsidering the boundaries as the population grows in the eastern part of the district, along Interstate 17.

A new community, Union Park in Norterra, will bring 1,100 single-family homes and 1,100 multi-family residences near I-17 and Jomax Road. The district has begun to build a new elementary school there; It is expected to open this fall.

The new school will feed Barry Goldwater High School, which is already crowded. For the 2028-29 school year, the district expects more than 300 students to exceed their capacity, counting open enrollment students and those who live within the boundaries of the school.

But changes in the proposed limits only slightly reduce the number of students expected to live within the Barry Goldwater limit.

Instead, they primarily reduce the number of students living in the Sandra Day O & # 39; Connor High School boundary, by expanding the boundary of Mountain Ridge farther north and the boundary of Boulder Creek High School farther south.

Students also decrease slightly at the limit of Mountain Ridge and slightly increase students at the limit of Deer Valley.

Open enrollment plays a role in the decision

Migliorino said the change to Arrowhead neighborhoods is intended to reinforce enrollment in Deer Valley, which is the lowest among the district's high schools.

"This provides a contiguous limit to high school and honors many of our other guiding principles related to school boundaries," he wrote in an email.

However, when looking at the numbers, enrollment in Mountain Ridge and Deer Valley is expected to match over the next decade, without the changes.

School administrators no longer explained why the change of boundaries was necessary, but Superintendent Curtis Finch emphasized the importance of attracting students through open enrollment.

Mountain Ridge and Sandra Day are popular open enrollment schools. By reducing the number of students in their limits, that would allow more open enrollment students, and perhaps more students in the district as a whole.

More students means more money for the district.

With competition from charter schools and open enrollment in other districts, Finch said he wants the school system to be attractive to students living outside the district. "Open enrollment and cards are the game in our system." he said. "… We need to play the game."

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Board Vice President Jenny Frank said she believes the first priority in attendance should be given to people who live within the district and within current limits.

Frank said the numbers did not show how the changes would balance the enrollment.

Board member Darcy Tweedy said she would vote for the change, if the school district could show their numbers showing that the changes would postpone the need for a future high school. As of now, he said, he doesn't see how they would do it.

Quickly pushed boundary changes

Parents are also not happy with how quickly school administrators tried to drive the changes.

The district held the first community meetings explaining the proposed changes on November 18, sent a notice to all residents on November 21, and held additional community meetings on December 9 and 11.

The Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board hears public comments about the proposed changes in high school boundaries.

The Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board hears public comments about the proposed changes in high school boundaries. (Photo: Jen Fifield / The Republic)

With the holidays, Olney said, no one has been paying attention, and many do not know what is happening.

"In light of all this," he said, "we feel in sandbags."

When asked if the changes were urgent, Migliorino said no, but the transition plan takes several years.

"Implementing these changes will now produce the desired results of balancing high school enrollments in the future," he wrote.

Arrowhead was the first Mountain Ridge neighborhood

Mountain Ridge opened in 1995, primarily to serve residents of the Arrowhead Ranch neighborhoods, and expected growth in the area.

Residents say that this tradition of having Arrowhead students attend Mountain Ridge should mean something to the district.

Nate Miller, a resident of Arrowhead, said his family has always been considered a Mountain Ridge family, even though his children are not yet old enough to go to school.

Miller said the high-grade school was a selling point when he and his wife moved to Arrowhead Ranch in 2002. He knows it was also for many of his neighbors.

Their eighth and sixth grade children would be protected by the recently proposed limits and still attend Mountain Ridge, because the school system would allow the attendance of new ninth grade students and their siblings.

If the district changes the boundaries, he said he knows his neighbors will still try to take their students to Mountain Ridge, through open enrollment.

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Glendale board members oppose the change

Arrowhead residents sent dozens of emails to district leaders explaining their opposition, and involved members of the Glendale City Council.

Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff and Councilor Ray Malnar wrote a letter to the superintendent on January 10 opposing the change, saying they were contacted by many annoying parents with valid concerns.

"Switching students from a high performance school to a low performance school in the hope that performance will improve is unacceptable," they wrote. "Asking parents who are negatively affected by their proposal to sacrifice the quality of their children's education inappropriately removes their responsibility from you to these families."

They asked that the district focus instead on improving performance in Deer Valley.

Tolmachoff said by phone that his opposition to the change of boundaries has nothing to do with the demographics of any of the schools.

School district data shows that Deer Valley is much more diverse and has a greater number of low-income families than Mountain Ridge.

Tolmachoff said that shouldn't matter.

"Deer Valley can be a school with an A grade," he said.

Board members argue that Deer Valley's reputation is incorrect

Several board members said Deer Valley's reputation as a low-performing school is inaccurate.

State ratings, along with U.S. News and World Report ratings, indicate that it performs poorly compared to other schools in the district. But those grades do not accurately represent the performance of the school, said Julie Read, a member of the Board.

Read said parents don't understand the excellent programs and work at each school, and the school board should do a better job promoting those attributes.

"I think we have a reputation management problem with some of our schools," he said. "That, as a district, we have to start addressing more."

Read asked parents to submit their ideas before the next meeting to find solutions on how to solve the unequal enrollment of the school system in their high schools.

School administrators are accepting emails with comments at [email protected]

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8763. Follow her on Twitter @JenAFifield.

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