- R-II at 658

Leveling off.

That’s how Seymour R-II School District Superintendent Steve Richards described the local district’s student population in grades kindergarten through 12 after the first day of classes last Tuesday, Aug. 24.

“We’re seeing a leveling off ... meaning that our numbers aren’t declining, which is a positive thing,” Richards said.

First-day enrollment numbers for the district showed a slight increase last week, giving Seymour’s school a jump in student population for the second consecutive year.

This year’s total is 658, up from the 654 reported a year ago and 649 of two years ago.

“With a lot of area districts, especially smaller ones like ours, losing enrollment over the past two decades, we’re happy to see our numbers leveling off,” Richards explained.

“For several years, I think the big question for the school’s administration and the school board was where the bottom would finally hit. And it looks like it’s been found, as we’ve shown a small gain (in enrollment) the past two years.”

After reaching a high of 942 students in grades kindergarten through 12 in 2003, a low point was reached two years ago when enrollment was reported at 649 — a drop of nearly 300 students in a 16-year span.

The district’s first-day tally of 649 was its lowest mark since the 1966-67 school year, the first full year of classes after the consolidation of rural schools.

Seymour’s enrollment for grades kindergarten through 12 stayed above 700 from the 1967-68 school year through 2018, when the number fell to 682.

“What I’m focused on now is the quality of our education and programs instead of student population,” Richards said Monday. “Again, I feel the bottom was found in terms of how low those student numbers can fall. And from a community-wide perspective, I see almost everything trending up. The growth in the Seymour area is evident. With that growth, we ultimately will see our school enrollment jump.”

That’s why his focus, as well as the focus of the school board, is on the bigger picture.

“I’d prefer for us to focus on things we can control as a district,” he said. “We can control our curriculum, our test scores, our facilities and our quality of education. I feel we are making improvements every day in those areas.”

This year’s enrollment figures showed an increase at the high school, a slight drop at the middle school and a larger reduction at the elementary. When the numbers were counted, the net gain versus a year ago was four students.

At the elementary school, grades kindergarten through five, the drop was from 305 to 284 students.

In the middle school, enrollment in grades six through eight was at 167, down four from last year’s 171.

And at the high school, the jump was from 178 students to 207, an increase of 29.

First-day figures showed the kindergarten with 55 students, followed by 48 in the first grade, 48 in the second, 49 in the third, 40 in the fourth and 44 in the fifth grade.

In the sixth grade, there are 56 students. There are 56 in the seventh grade and 55 in the eighth.

Seymour High School’s freshman class has 58 students, there are 58 sophomores, the junior class has 57 members, while there are only 34 seniors. The senior class (12th grade) is the school’s only class with fewer than 40 members.

The two largest classes are the freshman and sophomore classes at the high school, each with 58 students.

“There’s a very good balance among our 13 grades, with exception to the senior class,” Richards said. “We knew this smaller class was coming. A year ago, this class only had 39 members as juniors.”

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 was 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. (This was the first time in district history that the student population surpassed 900.)

• 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 students since this school year.)

• 2010 — 787.

• 2011 — 792.

• 2012 — 758. (The final year of a five-year economic recession that saw the district’s enrollment drop by nearly 100 students.)

• 2013 — 788.

• 2014 — 732. (The loss of 56 students is the largest one-year drop since the Highway A Amish students left before the 1995-96 school year.)

• 2015 — 736.

• 2016 — 729.

• 2017 — 720.

• 2018 — 682.

• 2019 — 649.

• 2020 — 654.

• 2021 — 658.

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

Census estimates for 2020 estimate the city’s population at just over 2,300.

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau also estimate that there are nearly 1,100 school-age children (ages 5 through 18) in the Highway A and Highway C Amish communities who live within the boundaries of the Seymour R-II School District.

They also estimate there are nearly 80 school-age children who lives in Seymour’s Mennonite community. All of the aforementioned children are educated in private schools.

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

A week from now, he added that the school will have a more-accurate count of what its steady enrollment will be for the 2021-22 school year.

“We’re still picking up new students every day, so I’ll estimate that our enrollment count after the first week of September will be a bit higher than the numbers I’m giving to you now,” Richards concluded.

“To me, the good news is that we’re not down. We’re up a bit. Most importantly, we’ve now had a couple of years where we’re not down versus the year before. That’s a good trend for our district.”

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