Almost 150 fewer students are attending schools in the St. Joseph School District than last year, something the Long-Range Planning Committee took into account when discussing facility options on Tuesday night.
According to numbers compiled within the first seven days of school, 10,768 students are enrolled in 23 schools across the district, compared to 10,914 last school year. According to Superintendent Doug Van Zyl, demographic studies have showed a decreased birth rate as well as people moving from the area, which could contribute to the decrease.
“Our demographic study that was done as part of the facilities master plan did show a continued downward trend in loss of students,” Van Zyl said. “That’s something that can change as well; something can happen in the community that allows for some growth and development and make more students and families move into our community.”
The school to lose the most students was Lafayette High School with 55 students, followed by Hosea Elementary School with 39 and Coleman Elementary School with 33. The school to gain the most students was Webster Secondary School with 84 students, followed by Spring Garden Middle School with 22 and Bessie Ellison Elementary School with 19.
An official count day is expected to take place at the end of September, according to Van Zyl.
These numbers were discussed among the district’s long-range planning committee on Tuesday night, which heavily focused on facility options that would work best for students and be financially wise.
“It sounds like to me that the staff feedback is similar to the community feedback. It sounds like to me it’s near unanimous that the current model doesn’t work for a variety of reasons,” said Seth Wright, president of the St. Joseph School Board. “
Van Zyl said he does not want to focus too heavily on enrollment numbers that could change from year to year, but rather how facilities can provide an equal learning environment for students throughout the district and save on resources and money. “It doesn’t work academically, extracurricularly, facilities, everything. The current model isn’t working and we have to change.”
The committee discussed the idea of consolidating two or more high schools, an idea that has been on their minds for some time now. The group brainstormed ways to solve concerns that had come from this idea such as adding intramural sports for high-schoolers and focusing on academic and interest groups that could provide scholarships outside of athletics.
No decision was made by the board as they were awaiting more cost analyses from DRL, the company working with the district on facility planning. The board was expected to receive that information by the end of the week and had plans to share the information with the public both online and at a yet-to-be-decided location.