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 looks at student enrollment numbers, staffing, as district continues to plan for future

District will hold demographic study every three years to look at enrollment
An Oakville High School student sews during class as students returned for two weeks in October-November 2020, before the announcement that they would return to all-virtual learning until January 2021.

After the past few years of declining enrollment, enrollment in the Mehlville School District this year is slightly up. 

At the Board of Education meeting Oct. 21, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jeff Bresler said that while overall enrollment in the district continues to decline, that decline has slowed, with overall enrollment in the district growing from 9,765 last year to 9,972 this year. 

Official enrollment numbers are due to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education the last Wednesday of September. The numbers are used to formalize data about each district. 

“Essentially we are looking at enrollment from different lenses … ultimately to help for planning for the future, specifically with staffing,” Bresler said. “For those planing purposes, supplies.”

The district conducted a demographic study in 2019, after an initial study in 2017. The findings of that study were presented to the Board of Education in January 2020. The demographer provides the district with “high, medium and low” projection estimates. 

“For 2021, 2022, we’re exceeding the high estimate provided by the demographer. … We’re carefully monitoring our enrollment numbers, we want to see if that trend continues,” said Bresler. 

The district has also looked into how Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation, or VICC, student enrollment has changed and its impact on total enrollment. At its height, VICC had thousands of students in the district, but as the program is being phased out, that number continues to shrink. 

About two-thirds of the district’s enrollment decline can be attributed to the decline in the VICC population.  

Looking toward the future enrollment of the district, the demographer will update projections in late fall 2022, using 2016 enrollment as the baseline. 

The district is using a data mapping program that forecasts enrollment in different zones across the district. Those forecasts for the zones can help the district determine areas in the district that might need more free and reduced lunches, English-language specialists and other interventionists, as well as programming. 

“Enrollment does impact staffing. Our numbers sort of determine a lot of the impact that we have on staffing,” said Bresler. 

Districtwide, there are about 870 certified staff, which includes classroom teachers, interventionists, administration and guidance counselors. The district employs about 514 classified staff, which includes transportation employees, health services, food service and facilities. There are currently 57 unfilled classified positions. 

The district uses student enrollment numbers to determine necessary staffing across elementary, middle and high school grade-levels. 

With lower class sizes in elementary grade levels, the district has been able to lower the student to teacher ratio in some of those classrooms.

However, even with lower enrollment, Bresler said the pandemic has created new staffing challenges for students, like an increased need for mental health professionals and other behavioral counselors.  

“We have a lot of challenges. … As enrollment has slowly declined … we’re faced with a whole new world of meeting increased needs of our students. … We need to continue our plan of using data to determine staffing based on enrollment,” said Bresler. “We also have a lot of needs of students that have changed through the years.” 

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