• R-II at 649

The drop hasn’t stopped.

Dropping enrollment.

After reaching a high of 942 students in grades kindergarten through 12 in 2003, the Seymour R-II School District’s enrollment has dropped by nearly 300 students over the past 16 years.

Superintendent Steve Richards reported the student numbers at Seymour’s public school were at their lowest rate in more than half a century last Thursday at 649, a drop of 33 from the 682 on last year’s first day.

“This obviously isn’t something that’s an exception ... it’s a trend,” Richards said of the district’s declining enrollment in grades kindergarten through 12. “This now has been happening for more than 15 years, and in the process, we are down a total of 293 students since 2003.

“What’s worse is that the numbers show the bottom hasn’t yet been reached. We were down more than 30 students last year. Now we’re down more than 30 this year.”

Does the district have a solution?

“I’m new to the district and have been on the job less than two months, but I do plan to study how our enrollment is falling and why,” Richards said. “I plan to meet with parents who are home-schooling their children, which is a group that I think has grown over the past two decades.

“But we need to know why enrollment is falling. We’re not alone in this. A lot of school districts in rural Missouri are facing this. We need to know why ours is falling. Maybe it’s something we can curb, maybe it’s not.”

The last time the Seymour R-II School District’s enrollment was below 650 students was in the 1966-67 school year when the tally was 648 students, one less than this year’s total.

“What I will say is that I felt we had a great first day of classes,” Richards noted. “I’ll also say that we’ve got an enthusiastic staff ready to get to work. We’ve got a great student body. I was pleased with our open house and felt we had a great turnout.”

He said the largest loss of students this year was at the elementary school, where enrollment in the kindergarten through the fifth grade is at 300, down 26 students from last year’s 326.

“More than half of that loss came from a fifth-grade class that had 59 students going to sixth grade, followed by a kindergarten class with only 45 students,” Richards explained.

“That’s a net loss of 14 students.”

In the middle school, enrollment in grades six through eight is at 163, down seven from last year’s 170.

There was no change at the high school. Last year, there were 186 students in grades nine through 12. This year, that total again is 186.

What does the loss of 33 students mean financially to the district?

“I think our patrons have been trained on this impact over the past several years ... the district receives around $6,200 per student, so the loss of 33 students means a little more than $200,000,” Richards said. “That’s our money from the state from the (foundation) formula.”

First-day figures showed the kindergarten with 45 students, followed by 58 in the first grade, 47 in the second, 39 in the third, 53 in the fourth and 58 in the fifth grade.

In the sixth grade, there are 59 students, which represents the district’s largest class. There are 50 seventh-graders and 54 in the eighth grade.

The freshman class has 55 students, there are 36 sophomores (the district’s smallest class), the junior class has 51 members, and there are 44 seniors.

“Our student numbers are what they are, so we’re going to have to learn to excel and thrive with the numbers that we have,” Richards concluded. “We’ve got businesses here in Seymour and families here who have had to adjust their budgets when finances get tight, and we’ll do the same.

“That doesn’t change our obligation to our students. We are proud of the kids we have here. And we will still give them a high-quality education and make sure they have a great foundation to succeed once they leave us.”

Here are the Seymour R-II School District’s first-day enrollments since 1990:

• 1990 — 814.

• 1991 — 801.

• 1992 — 815.

• 1993 — 861.

• 1994 — 848.

• 1995 — 770. (Enrollment drop caused by the loss of nearly 100 students from the Highway A Amish community, who opted to educate their children in private Amish schools at the onset of the 1995-96 school year.)

• 1996 — 789.

• 1997 — 781.

• 1998 — 798.

• 1999 — 869.

• 2000 — 855.

• 2001 — 894.

• 2002 — 910.

• 2003 — 942. (This is the largest enrollment figure in the history of the Seymour R-II School District.)

• 2004 — 908.

• 2005 — 887.

• 2006 — 857.

• 2007 — 852.

• 2008 — 832.

• 2009 — 778. (The district’s enrollment hasn’t surpassed 800 since this school year.)

• 2010 — 787.

• 2011 — 792.

• 2012 — 758.

• 2013 — 788.

• 2014 — 732.

• 2015 — 736.

• 2016 — 729.

• 2017 — 720.

• 2018 — 682.

• 2019 — 649.

In the 2010 official census, the population within the city limits of Seymour was counted at 1,921.

Census estimates from a year ago pegged the city’s population at 1,995.

Richards said last Friday that the district’s pre-school program was at a full capacity of 60 students.

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