Meramec Valley School District officials found themselves in a last-minute hiring of one teacher for the upcoming school year in the face of fluctuating enrollment.
Dr. Jeremy Way admits that he spends a lot of summer hours trying to predict the number of students who will show up in August.
As the assistant superintendent in charge of district services, Way’s predictions make sure the district has the right number of teachers and aides for the approximate 1,520 students who attend school in 64 elementary classrooms at Coleman, Nike, Robertsville, Truman and Zitzman schools.
By state guidelines, class size in kindergarten through grade two cannot exceed 25, grades three and four cannot exceed 27, grades five and six cannot exceed 30, and grades seven through 12 cannot exceed 33.
As the beginning of the school year nears, administrators always have to grapple with the uncertainties of fluctuating student enrollment as some families move in and out of the district.
Speaking at the July 19 school board meeting, Way said uncertainty is especially true in kindergarten where despite Parents as Teacher surveys, phone banks and several kindergarten roundups, some parents still do not register their kindergartners until opening day approaches.
“Kindergarten is always a mystery,” he said.
This year the number of kindergarten students expected at Truman posed a challenge. The predicted number of students was between 51 and 53 and there were still six or seven families with kindergarten age students that the district has not been able to reach.
On July 25, the district posted an opening for an additional kindergarten teacher for the coming year.
“I talk every day with building administrators,” Dr. Way said. “In the end we have to be prepared for the number of kids that show up.”
The district has faced declining enrollment for the past three years, dipping from 3,257 in August 2013 to 3,070 in 2016. Projected enrollment for 2017 is 3,100 students.
Interim Superintendent Dr. Ed Hillhouse said while the challenge of predicting enrollment might seem stressful, current trends seem to bode well for the district.
“The good news is we seemed to have turned the corner in declining numbers and we’re growing,” Hillhouse said. “And we’re growing in the early grades, which indicates that more young families are moving into the district.”