In an effort to help the school district prepare for upcoming changes, Meramec Valley R-III School District officials are proposing a fourth demographic study in the past two decades.

The school board gave the nod to more discussion and a possible vote on the study at its meeting Wednesday, Aug. 15.

Superintendent Dr. John Mulford said the study, which would be performed by Business Information Services LLC, would take stock of the district’s current makeup, possible growth points and determine where population growth or decline might come from.

The school district has used the company’s services before, in 2007, 2010 and in early 2013, for demographic studies.

The most recent study in late 2013 revealed that the district was heading toward a decline in its enrollment. School Board President Matt Trower said that data has been largely accurate, with a few caveats.

“When you look at the time that has passed and what has happened, they are remarkably accurate,” he said.

Mulford said because the district is considering potential major changes in the district — possible redistricting and restructuring — another demographic study will most likely be needed anyway in the next several years.

The study will cost the district $18,300 if the board approves its execution. Mulford said while the fee is high, he believes it will be invaluable.

“It’s a little hard to swallow looking at that price tag, but I think the information that comes from it could save us a lot more in the long run,” he said.

Business Information Services also proposed a redistricting study, which Mulford said officials most likely could do. If the redistricting study was included, the cost would be around $30,000.

“We can analyze that ourselves once we get the demographics study,” he said. “If we were a larger district I could see how a redistricting study might be useful.”

The study will be included on the September school board agenda. If approved, Mulford said the company believes the study would be finished by the fall, and the results would be available no later than January.

Mulford said if the district ends up doing the study, officials might have a better idea of where enrollment is heading.

“The 2013 study did project a decrease. but there was also a glimmer of hope that we could actually start to see a swing,” he said. “The study could reassure us of that and help guide us as we start talking about redistricting, restructuring or using our facilities differently.”

The district has experienced decreased enrollment for the past 10 years, declining from a high of 4,000 students to approximately 3,000 students.

In total, 2,964 students were in attendance on the first day of school, Wednesday, Aug. 15.