Payson Student Population Drops First Time In 12 Years

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For the first time in 12 years, the Payson Unified School District has seen a decrease in student population.

With the 100-day count completed, the school district has a total of 2,759 students enrolled for the 2000-2001 school year, a decrease of 51 students from the previous school year.

The drop, which was less than the 67 students the district was down at the 40-day count, still represents $182,000 in lost revenue. The state reimburses districts $3,400 for each student enrolled.

Last year, the district gained just 39 students, much less than the average increase of more than 100 students recorded from 1993 through 1998.

Payson High School showed the largest decrease, losing 39 students, followed by Payson Elementary School with a loss of 15 and Julia Randall Elementary School with a loss of eight. Frontier Elementary School and Rim Country Middle School were the only schools to register student increases, with gains of seven and one respectively.

The individual school figures do not add up to the overall loss of 51 students because the numbers, which are based on the average attendance over the first 100 days of the school year, are rounded off, and because preschool and kindergarten numbers are halved for the purpose of calculating student aid from the state.

Payson School Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said he hopes the decline is temporary, but is not overly optimistic about a rapid turnaround.

"In talking to some Realtors and the head of the chamber, housing is still at a virtual standstill," he said. "The prognosis is that nothing really has changed in the community as a whole that will result in an improvement in the numbers. What we look forward to next year is just an evening off, but if anything, it might dip a little bit again."

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