South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Mehlville enrollment to drop 1,800 by 2018-2019 school year

Enrollment drop opportunity for district, COMPASS co-chair Fowler says

The Mehlville School District is projected to lose roughly 1,800 students from its enrollment by the 2018-2019 school year under a moderate level of demographic decline.

Regional demographics statistician Charles Kofron estimated that the district’s current enrollment of 11,088 students will drop to an estimated 9,275 students by the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

Kofron presented his findings during an Oct. 15 session of the school district’s community-engagement program, COMPASS — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools.

Among his conclusions is that an aging society is the key contributing factor to the district’s decline in enrollment and a drop in its student-aged population. As the district’s total population has climbed by more than 1,200 people since 2000, that growth is expected to even out and result in a projected 3-percent decline in school-aged children from now through 2012.

His projections show that the Mehlville School District’s total population is expected to drop by less than 1 percent from its 2007 estimate of 104,073 people to its 2012 projection of 103,844 people.

While total population is expected to drop by just more than 200 people in the next five years, the number of children ranging in age from 5 to 17 is expected to drop by just less than 500.

Kofron estimates school-aged population will drop from its current estimate of 16,155 to 15,663 in 2012, showing a 3-percent decline.

While those at last week’s community-engagement session viewed that trend of less enrollment as an opportunity, the definition of that opportunity was predominantly split into two concepts — being able to accomplish more advanced learning through smaller class sizes or possibly reducing the level of district funding and resources because of fewer students.

COMPASS co-chair Dan Fowler, a former Board of Education member, said while he recognizes both opportunities, he tends to lean more toward offering more learning opportunities to district students through smaller class sizes.

“I think that we got really good news to-night that Mehlville’s enrollment is going down because we can do some things now,” Fowler said at the session. “Our kids on the elementary level, assuming that we keep the same amount of teachers and the same amount of buildings open, are now going to have smaller class size … and that’s the opportunity.

“On the other hand, what are the challenges of the Mehlville School District? From a community point of view, I think there will be those out there that will say because we have fewer students, you need less taxes, less money, less resources. And if you’re in favor of lowering taxes and closing schools and keeping kids back, then I believe for those of you that’s an opportunity.

“But for me, it’s an opportunity for the Mehlville School District to do some really great things we never could do in the past that almost every great school district in St. Louis County is doing now,” Fowler added.

Some of Kofron’s findings are:

• The district’s diversity will continue to increase, but the population will remain predominantly white.

• As recently as 2000, less than two-thirds of the school-aged population attended public schools.

• While households are expected to increase by 3 percent across this decade, most of those new households will be non-family.

• The number of families in the district will decline by an estimated 1.6 percent.

• The size of both households and families will continue to decline.

• While housing will increase, it will do so at a gradually slower rate by the end of the decade.

Among Kofron’s contributing factors to the projected decline in enrollment are:

• Births have steadily declined since 1994 and will continue to do so.

• Kindergarten pupils also have steadily declined and will continue to do so.

• Class sizes increase until 10th grade, where they begin to fall. Kofron notes that the increased class size through each progressive grade is another indication of an aging population.

• Many projections are influenced by a significant increase in the kindergarten class of 2002-2003 and the “relatively flat enrollments” that followed that class.

Kofron also said that while the district as a whole will see a decline in student-aged population, it is important to remember that certain sections of the district will decline or even grow at different rates.

“Here you have a school district that has a large number of kids that are going to private and parochial schools,” Kofron said. “We’re seeing the number of families and households, because of the aging of this community, we’re seeing those sizes on the average declining.

“But again, be careful because as we’ve seen in these demographic comparisons, changes are taking place at different rates throughout the district. So be careful when you take a look at those …”

Regarding the population of children in the school district ranging in age from 5 to 17, the vast majority of Concord is expected to see a decline in school-age children over the next five years from -0.01 percent to -17.37 percent.

Lemay is expected to see the same rate of decline in its school-age children in most areas except for a small section in the center of the community that is projected to grow in school-age children from 5 percent to 11 percent over the next five years.

As for Oakville, the vast majority is expected to see a drop in school-age children over the next five years between -0.01 percent and -17.37 percent.

At the same time, Oakville’s northeastern corner near Beasley Elementary School is expected to see a growth of 5 percent to 11 percent in school-age children over the next five years.

Other areas of Oakville, predominantly its extreme south near Rogers Elementary School, are projected to see a smaller population growth of school-age children of up to 5 percent from now through 2012.

Kofron said the district’s aging population also can be reflected in the changes of ownership of property dropping.

He reports that after the district saw 9,142 changes in ownership of parcels in the district boundaries from 2001 to 2004, that number dropped to 7,811 changes in ownership from 2004 to 2007.

“The rate of change is going down,” Kofron said. “We’re having less division and subdivision of property. We still have a housing increase in the number of single-family units.

“But it seems to me that by looking at this data that we’re starting to mature as a community. You’re not going to see those large land-development projects that really brought on a large number of single-family houses that we saw in the early part of the decade. And we’re seeing this not only in Mehlville, but we’re seeing this throughout St. Louis County also.”

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