Enrollment at Lake Havasu Unified School District is low this year across the board.
The number of students starting at the district’s elementary and middle schools is the lowest it has been in 10 years with the district’s six elementary schools totaling a combined 2,771 students and Thunderbolt Middle School totaling 849, according to an enrollment history spreadsheet provided by Superintendent Diana Asseier.
The document also shows that Lake Havasu High School kicked off the school year with 1,797 students, which is the lowest the school has had at the beginning of the school year in a decade.
With enrollment shrinking on the south side of the district and growing on the north side, Asseier said the school district sees its greatest decrease at the primary grade levels, adding that a contributing factor could be low birth rates throughout the county. Enrollment this year in the elementary schools was down 54 students when compared to the 2017-2018 fiscal year’s ending enrollment total — the middle school saw a 33 student decrease while the high school saw a 120 student increase.
“We have a very small group of kindergarten students this year; this may be due to lower birth rates in our county, the aging population of our city, and the many more choices, public and private, that parents have within our city,” she wrote in an email.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there were a total of 1,734 births in Mohave County last year, which was 3.8 percent less than the year prior. Jeni Coke, a spokeswoman for the Lake Havasu Regional Medical Center, wrote in an email that birth rates in Havasu are down 30 percent.
“The first big drop was when the economy took a dive but then we started noticing it early last year,” she added.
In 2006 there were a total of 807 births at the hospital and then 558 last year, according to a spreadsheet provided by Coke. She explained that not all births that occur at the hospital are from Havasu residents.
Another factor for decreasing enrollment could be more education options for Havasu families.
This school year Havasu residents were provided with at least one new elementary option when Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church began offering a first-grade program in addition to its previously existing preschool and kindergarten programs. Today’s News-Herald reported Aug. 14 that the school had a total of 54 enrolled students, 17 of whom were enrolled in the inaugural first-grade class.
Fatima Mu, a lead teacher at the school, said Thursday that those numbers had not changed.
Telesis Preparatory Academy Superintendent Sandy Breece stated in an email that enrollment at the school is slightly higher than last year. Telesis has 432 students between kindergarten and 12th grade, 20 more than 2017.
Breece said she attributes Telesis’ enrollment increase to the school’s emphasis on smaller class sizes, which appeals to parents. “We consistently keep our class size small which allows us to individualize our instruction,” she said in the email.
Asseier acknowledged that the school district is challenged by competition from charter and private schools.
“I think that many of our families choose alternative schools for a number of reasons. These include religious preference and perceptions of quality,” wrote Asseier. “Many in our community are not aware of the services and enrichment that we provide and believe they are getting a better program elsewhere. There are also issues of negative rumors or misinformation. We would encourage people to visit their local schools and see what we have to offer. If another choice is better for your family, then it is based on the facts and information, not what is being said.”
She stated that this year the district added a new magnet program and upgraded school facilities.