Mehlville School District enrollment declines as district ages

Oakville+Elementary+students+Baileigh+Holland%2C+Logan+Woods%2C+Tommy+Schoen+and+Hanna+Backs+walk+into+school+together+on+the+first+day+in+2018.+

Oakville Elementary students Baileigh Holland, Logan Woods, Tommy Schoen and Hanna Backs walk into school together on the first day in 2018.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

Enrollment in the Mehlville School District continues to decline, a trend that was confirmed by a demographic study last year after an initial study in 2017.

The Board of Education approved a $27,463 demographic and enrollment study in June, which was conducted by Business Information Systems owner Preston Smith, who also helmed Mehlville’s 2017 study.

According to demographic data presented to the board Jan. 16 by Planning and Development Executive Director Chad Dickemper, the district saw a steep decline in projected enrollment, mirroring a longer pattern of decline in the district.

“When graphed, it (enrollment) appears as an inverted U-shaped pattern,” Dickemper told the board. “This peaked in 1994 and 1995, and we had a total enrollment of 12,146 students,” now down to 10,007.

Participation in the city-county voluntary desegregation program Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation, or VICC, mirrors that decline, as VICC participation falls. VICC is only accepting siblings.

The number of students who participate in the VICC program is currently under 200 students, said Dickemper.

Dickemper also pointed out that despite declining enrollment, grade-level distribution throughout the district has remained fairly equitable.

The study cited three reasons behind declining enrollment in the district, such as declining birth rates, an increasing elderly population and more students attending private and parochial schools.

The number of births in the district has declined by 16.9 percent while the elderly population has increased, according to the study.

The district is also only capturing 76.3 percent of its market share of students, which means there are roughly 3,000 students who live within attendance boundaries who do not attend a Mehlville school. The state average is 86 percent.

Dickemper added that the information from the study had a wide range of uses, from Communications Department and district branding to the Facilities Steering Committee as it continues to review district facilities and suggest upgrades. Enrollment also has an impact on funding from the state.

“I cannot stress enough how important it will be for us to promote the U.S. census. We need an accurate count of residents, families, folks that are living within the district,” said Dickemper. “The more people we have counted, the better it will be for the district.”

“I’m optimistic that steps we’re taking to listen to the community, to engage them through ThoughtExchange, board listening sessions, et cetera, and help shape the renewal of the strategic plan will result in things that appeal to families,” added Dickemper.

“It’s concrete steps that are being taken, that perceptions are beginning to improve about the district and the schools and those perceptions are what people are going to base their decisions off of,” said board President Kevin Schartner.

Currently, the district tentatively plans to conduct another demographic study for the 2022-2023 school year.