- R-II at 675

The drop has stopped.

Dropping school enrollment, that is.

First-day enrollment numbers for the Seymour R-II School District increased last Tuesday, Aug. 25, for the first time in five years, jumping from a half-century low of 649 last year to 673, according to figures reported by Superintendent Steve Richards.

“We were glad to see the increase,” Richards said.

“However, the numbers were a bit lower than I actually had anticipated, as I felt we could be up by 40 or even 50 students on the first day versus this time a year ago.”

Regardless, Richards said he’s pleased to see the end of the declining-enrollment trend.

“It’s a trend we needed to see come to an end,” he noted.

“Hopefully, this begins a trend in the other direction, where we see our enrollment increase for several years.”

After reaching a high of 942 students in grades kindergarten through 12 in 2003, prior to last week’s first day, the local school district’s enrollment had dropped by nearly 300 students over the next 16 years.

A year ago, when enrollment was reported at 649, it was the district’s lowest K-12 student population since 1966, the first full year of the consolidation of rural schools.

Seymour’s enrollment for grades kindergarten through 12 stayed above 700 from 1967 through 2018, when the number fell to 682. The drop to 649 a year ago marked a new low.

“The loss of student population has a direct impact on the district in many ways, but from a financial perspective, the loss is more than $6,000 per student,” Richards explained.

“When you look at the drop of nearly 300 students over a course of less than 20 years, that’s nearly $2 million in annual revenue that’s been lost. That’s a lot of money.”

Richards said that over the past year, he’s tried to identify and address actions of the school district that may have contributed to the loss of student enrollment over the past two decades. He’s also met with parents who are home-schooling their children, trying to find ways the local school can regain students who are eligible to attend public school.

Prior to August 2019, 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 the 649 reported.

“Our first-day numbers this year are very encouraging,” Richards said. “We are up 24 students, which puts us at 673, and I’d like to see that number be around 700 by the end of this school year.

“We’re still adding a few students after the first day. I do feel the trend has changed. Again, I’m optimistic that we’ll see several consecutive years where our numbers rise.”

This year’s student gains were across the board.

At the elementary school, grades kindergarten through five, the increase was from 300 to 310 students.

In the middle school, enrollment in grades six through eight was at 171, up eight from last year’s 163.

And at the high school, the jump was six from 186 students to 192 in grades nine through 12.

The addition of 24 new students will result in nearly $150,000 in extra state revenue to the district.

“That’s a definite plus for us,” Richards said.

“Since 2003, we’ve been in a trend where enrollment was falling, so, in turn, our revenue from the state (foundation formula) also was falling.”

First-day figures showed the kindergarten with 52 students, followed by 48 in the first grade, 59 in the second, 48 in the third, 45 in the fourth and 58 in the fifth grade.

In the sixth grade, there are 58 students. There are 59 in the seventh grade and 54 in the eighth.

The freshman class has 57 students, there are 53 sophomores, the junior class has 39 members (the district’s smallest class), while there are 43 seniors.

The two largest classes are in the second and seventh grades, each with 59 students.

“One thing that I like seeing is the balance among all of the classes,” Richards said.

“We’ve got one class with only 39 (students), but other than that, every class has between 43 and 59 students, and a majority of our classes have more than 50 students. That balance is a good thing.”

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 students since this school year.)

• 2010 — 787.

• 2011 — 792.

• 2012 — 758.

• 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 — 673.

In the official 2010 federal 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 2,017.

Census officials also estimate that there are nearly 1,000 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 live in Seymour’s Mennonite community. All of the aforementioned children are educated in private schools.

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

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