Jacksonville School District 117 is facing a downward trend in enrollment. The district reported a significant drop across all three levels.
Superintendent Steve Ptacek says this now places the Vision 117 plan for major building investment outside of Washington Elementary renovation on hold while the district watches enrollment. Ptacek says he and an outside company did an analysis on the district’s enrollment trends over the last ten years with at least a 6-year projection: “I started doing an analysis of our enrollment, and looking backwards, even to a couple of years ago when we first did the boundary process. It kind of triggered something that I was concerned about that our enrollment was dropping substantially over time. We looked back at 2010-2011, and we had 1,610 K-5 students, and we are down this year to 1,305. That’s been dropping somewhat, almost linearly over the last 10-12 years, which matches what the census is saying. We did pay an outside company from St. Louis to come in and do a professional analysis, and they came up with data that was backing up that as it looks into the future, and their data backs up what the census is saying that we are also losing a lot of our younger individuals in Morgan County. Therefore, if that trend continues over the next 4-5 years, we will be talking about going from, right now we are at 10 classes per grade level. We will be talking about going to 9 classes per grade level, which I broke to the board tonight, we could be talking about the closure of a school.”
Ptacek says the financial impact is also drastic, as the district will lose evidence-based funding from the state as the enrollment continues to decline: “You get less funding and you start getting class sizes that are drastically reduced, your efficiency for what you owe to the taxpayers drops dramatically. Therefore, it even gets worse that if that enrollment trend data were to continue for 10 years, we could be talking about closing 2 schools over the next 10 years. We hope it doesn’t. We hope that we do start seeing growth in the area and in the community. At this point in time, I recommended that we put a pauses on talking about moving forward with anything beyond the Washington Elementary project, and with it being such a large school structural-wise, that would not be one of the schools we would talk about potentially closing. Beyond that project, we are going to be on pause a little bit until we see what the enrollment is at the end of the year and maybe even into next Fall. We owe that to the taxpayers before investing a large sum of money that could be not needed.”
According to the data that the St. Louis firm projected, within the next 6 years, if things remain the same in the Jacksonville area, enrollments could possibly dip below 1,000 at the elementary school, jr. high, and high schools.