OPINION: Why Having a Fifth School in the Agua Fria District is a Mistake

By: Clinton Barney

Earlier this year, I reported about the announcement of a fifth school coming to the Agua Fria Union High School District (AFUHSD) near the 2018-2019 school year. The new school is primarily set to focus on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields our district and state lags behind in, which is a great idea and will be no doubt a great addition. But, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to me why the district is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to add another school into the mix when the four they already have are stuck struggling in both education and economic levels.

USNews.com ranks high schools throughout the country on how well they prepare their students for college readiness on a 100 point scale. Do you want to know where they rank the schools within the Agua Fria District?

Agua Fria: 17.4/100 (Bronze Level)

Desert Edge: 14.3/100 (Bronze Level)

Millennium: 6.7/100 (Bronze Level)

Verrado: 24.6/100 (Silver Level)

Verrado is the the youngest school in the district, being established only a near-decade ago in 2006, as well as the most economically privileged. It ranks #36 on USNews’s list of best Arizona high schools, and #2277 in National Rankings. They aren’t the best numbers, but they’re pretty well up there, especially for a lower-income school. footer-logo

Despite Verrado’s decent numbers, the rest of the district’s schools fall behind. None of the schools are preparing their students for college as efficiently as they want. It is obvious that the district needs to boost these statistics, whether that be by hiring new, proficient teachers, or obtaining more educational supplies, but spending money on a completely new project unrelated to these needs does nothing to benefit them.

According to Niche’s list of 2017 Best High Schools for STEM in Arizona, out of 100 schools, Verrado ranks 50th, Millennium: 52nd, Agua Fria: 61st, and Desert Edge: 78th. The fact that each school from the district made it on the list says something. The Agua Fria District has something going for them in terms of STEM already. Why start over and build up a new and improved STEM foundation with an entirely new school if you could spend the money on improving the STEM fields of the schools you already have?

Everything that I’m about to say is based off of my previous three years at Agua Fria High School, and may not be true for the other schools in the district. Agua Fria is crowded. The infrastructure is old. Things need to be renewed. There are a lack of teachers and school supplies. The money being used for the construction, hiring and recruiting of the teachers, purchase of supplies and whatever else for the fifth school could be used to benefit and upgrade the already-standing ones. I know that Agua Fria deserves a well-needed facelift, and I’m sure the other three schools do as well.

It is also a bit unfair for the District to deny their students equal opportunity to top-quality technology that the fifth school is planned to have. More money being spent on cutting-edge technology for the new school means less money going into the technological advancement or repair for the other four.

Yes, the fifth school is a great solution to the overcrowding epidemic of the district. However, since only today’s 7th graders, incoming freshman in 2019, will be the first and only class of the new school when it finally opens, the epidemic will continue for nearly half a decade longer, until any student of any grade is allowed for admission.

Our district has been trying very hard to make college an acceptable and affordable option for all of its students. For example, Agua Fria pays for some of their students to take AP tests and ACTs so they can be ready for college without being stuck behind the financial barrier. All schools in the AFUHSD are determined to prepare every single student for life beyond high school, and seem to be trying very hard to do so. However, the creation and implementation of this fifth school does nothing but take away from the efforts and possibility of every other school.