ANTHEM – Caurus Academy’s inaugural high school class walked into their new 204,000 square-foot facility on Tuesday, August 7 for the first day of school, and entered in red carpet style with teachers and faculty cheering on the ninth and tenth grade students to the area’s newest public high school.
With Caurus Academy’s addition of the new high school campus this year comes a new public high school option for families in the Anthem and New River areas, which until now only had the option of Boulder Creek High School and Anthem Preparatory Academy.
Although this year Caurus will only be adding grades 9-10 while it expands in phase; it recently announced placing an earnest deposit on 10-acres of land near the New River Post Office so it can continue growing with the community in the future.
The school is a public charter with free enrollment, sports, honors, dual enrollment, extracurricular activities and is an “A” ranked school that has seen tremendous growth in the last four years, retaining its students at rates of 90 percent or higher. The school originally served only grades kindergarten through eighth, according the Arizona Charter School Association.
“We weren’t planning on a high school but there is a legitimate need for another quality high school in the Anthem area, and we did this for the community,” said Caurus Academy Director Dameon Blair in an interview with The Foothills Focus. “We want to be the release valve.”
If you ask assistant principal and athletic director, Wendy Davison, why the addition of a high school was necessary, she will tell you that it was mostly prompted by a demand from Caurus families. She says parents wanted their children to continue learning in the culture the school fosters with its small class sizes, the rigorous, relevant academic programs and personal relationships.
“To sustain this growth is unique, and it’s all organic growth by word of mouth, truly,” said Davison, explaining that the tremendous growth happened through transparency and trust that were created with students and families under Blair’s new leadership. “Our student retention is at 92 percent, we get them in and we keep them.”
Students like Samara Van Dijk, who attended Caurus Academy until she completed eighth grade, were unhappy with the options available for high school in the area. She decided to attend an online high school but missed the familiarity of a smaller school.
Samara spoke in front of the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools and passionately explained to the board why she and the community needed Caurus Academy to open a high school.
“Samara sold the high school for us,” Davison said, while pointing out that their students can advocate for their own learning environment through the skills they have learned while attending Caurus Academy.
But Caurus Academy was not always this successful. The school originally opened in 2004 as a Montessori school, but by 2014 enrollment was at an all time low, with less than 200 students attending.
Then Dameon Blair arrived on the scene taking over as the new director and charter holder, and within the four years of his leadership Caurus Academy has grown 139 percent in enrollments to date, is opening its high school and has plans to build a brick and mortar school for grades 6-12 in New River.
Director Blair is adamant that the school’s culture will not be changed because the community is experiencing population growth, and he is committed to keeping class sizes low.
The high school will be capping enrollment at 100 students per grade level, so once the high school is at capacity the student population will only be 400. All the teachers have been vetted through a rigorous hiring process and are fully certified and highly qualified with years of classroom experience.
“That’s powerful when your kids are lost in the shuffle,” said Blair about being absolutely committed to capping classrooms to lower sizes.
Beyond the small class sizes Caurus Academy High School is also offering three special education teachers, a robotics club, outdoor education opportunities for science learning, student council, drumline and a variety of sports that will compete with other high schools.
For the 2018-2019 academic year the school has added grades 9-10, and grades 11-12 will be added in the next subsequent two years. Currently it is still accepting students for grades 9-10.
Caurus Academy High School is located at 42101 n. 41st Avenue Suite 101 in Anthem. For more information or to schedule a tour call 623-466-8187, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit caurusacademy.org.