SIKESTON -- As the new school year gets under way, local school officials are experiencing the usual ups and downs of enrollment.
When school started last week for Sikeston R-6, enrollment for students in grades K-12 was slightly down from last year at 3,700, superintendent Steve Borgsmiller said.
"But we're still enrolling kids," Borgsmiller pointed out.
Since the early 1990s enrollment has decreased from year to year although Borgsmiller noted school numbers were up as recently as 2000 or 2001. "We've kind of hit a window, so to speak, and we fluctuate up and down," Borgsmiller said.
Borgsmiller attributed the area's trend of declining enrollment to residents leaving the agricultural area.
"The reality is that our agriculture base has become more mechanical and fewer people are needed to work farms, which are becoming larger and larger," Borgsmiller said. "When you can farm 6,000 acres with half a dozen people, it changes the demographics."
As a result people are moving to where the jobs are, and as population slowly decreases, schools will probably lose students, Borgsmiller said.
According to the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis, from 1997 to 2002 the number of farms decreased by 16 percent in Scott County, 17 percent in New Madrid County and 22 percent in Mississippi County. At the same time, the sizes of farms in those counties increased significantly.
Also agriculture-related jobs decreased by over 300 jobs in all three counties from 1990 to 2000 while opportunities in other employment areas such as industry and retail rose in each county.
New Madrid County R-1's enrollment is also a little down from last year -- about 33 students less -- with 1,662 students enrolled.
"We have about 20 students we're still waiting on to supply us with records and proper documentation," said Superintendent Bill Nance. "When the dust settles, we should be close to enrollment from last year."
Over the past two to three years, New Madrid County R-1 has lost about 2 to 3 percent of its student population a year, Nance noted. Last year the district lost about 40-48 students, he said.
"We are down a little bit, but we hope as time goes on that will change," Nance said.
Numbers are also down a bit at Scott County Central. Districtwide enrollment is at 353 compared to 391 last year. This year 182 students are enrolled in grades K-6 compared to 201 last year. There are 171 students in grades 7
-12 down about 20 from last year.
"We've been getting some new kids, and we lost some kids, but nothing really to put a finger on," Scott County Central Superintendent Joel B. Holland said about the decrease.
Currently 1,024 students are enrolled at the Scott County R-4 (Kelly) School District compared to 1,028 enrolled after Labor Day last year. "Typically, and I don't know why, we get one or two students enrolled after Labor Day," Kelly Superintendent Don Moore said.
Preliminary numbers for the elementary show enrollment is up a bit at 439; the middle school has a slight decrease at 236, which the district was anticipating due to a small sixth grade class; and the high school is at 349 students, which is very typical, Moore noted.
During the 1997-1998 school year Kelly saw a surge in its enrollment, noted Moore.
"That school year we had gotten to where we're at now, which is about as large as we have been," Moore said.
The 1,015-1,030 mark is where Kelly's enrollment has been over the past few years, Moore said. "We're not losing any students, and we are gaining in some areas," he added.
East Prairie R-2 enrollment is stable, noted Superintendent Scott Downing said.
"Right now we have about 1,043 students in kindergarten through 12th grade," Downing said. "We had 1,040 last year."
Oran R-3's enrollment also experienced a loss at 324 compared to 361 last year. Preliminary figures show 167 students in K-6 and 157 in grades 7-12 this year; last year there were 159 students in K-5 and 202 students in 6-12. Figures weren't available for Charleston R-1 because the district began classes Wednesday.
This week's preliminary enrollment numbers are indicative of recent trends. According to the OSEDA, school enrollment in Scott county grew .4 percent, or 398 students, in grades K-12 from 1990 to 2000 while New Madrid and Mississippi counties declined .7 percent (371 students) and .8 percent (341 students), respectively, during the same period.