City schools continue 12 year enrollment decline in Southside schools

There are incumbents running for re-election to the Monroe City School Board who are patting themselves on the back for a job well done, but apparently, they are not living in the same world as the rest of us.

There is a growing exodus of students out of the Monroe City Schools to parish, private and home schools. Those that remain are gradually squeezing themselves on the rolls of Northside schools. The historical data tells the story; it’s hard to deny.

The District’s enrollment numbers are increasingly getting smaller and its revenues are diminishing, but the board members say everything is great.

This week the district’s overall enrollment is 8,234 students being served by twenty school sites.

That sounds great, but by this week last year the enrollment was 8,328. That’s a loss of 94 students since last year.

Since students are funded about $1 million a hundred, the loss of 94 students reduces the board’s funding by about $940,000.

However, last year’s enrollment drop was a continuation of an 12-year decline in student population.

To see the big picture, flip back to 2006. In that year the enrollment of the district was 9,098. However, by October of last year, the enrollment had dwindled down to 8,419, for a loss of 679 students.

What gets interesting is to watch the steady exodus of students from South Monroe schools to North Monroe. Since 2006, the enrollment in Northside schools has either remained steady or maxed out, but the Southside enrollment has declined.

For example, in 2006 the enrollment for Carroll High School was 700, but by October of 2017 it had dwindled to 538, and this week it’s 520 a loss of 180 students. However, Neville High School had 881 students in 2006 but is holding steady at 900 this week. Wossman had 662 in 2006 but it slid to 626 last year and this week its enrollment is 602; a loss of 60 students.

Carroll Jr. High had 404 students in 2006, but this week its enrollment is down to 313, a loss of 88 students. Martin Luther King slid from 733 in 2006 to 304 last year and finally to 296 this year. (The school board is planning to build a new $16 million school for MLK anticipating more than 500 students it says.) Both schools are getting smaller each year.

While the enrollment at Carroll Jr. High and Martin Luther King has declined, Robert E. Lee Jr. High has remained at its maximum nearly every year. It had 483 students in 2006 and this week is maxed out at 481.

The board’s sales tax revenues dropped $2 million last year and with a reduced student count this year and additional sales tax revenue declines projected, there will be less money to operate the same number of schools in the coming years.

Facing an election year the school board chose to avoid hard choices. It gave a pay raise to teachers that it may snatch back after the election because they gave the raise with the notation that it depended on revenues being available. In time for the election, they would appear to be teacher friendly, at least for a few months.

The board has expanded the facilities on campuses that have declining enrollments. The most obvious is the board’s decision (which has not been repealed) to spend $16 million to build a new site for MLK whose rate of attrition is showing that it may very well have less than 250 students over the next ten years, forcing the closure of one of the board’s three Jr. High schools.

For students, it means fewer teachers will be hired and class sizes will be larger while the board tries to keep 20 sites functioning. In athletics, it means teams will compete in lower divisions with a smaller pool of student players to draw from.

The new board that takes office in January should seriously look at the reasons that Southside schools are having declining enrollment while Northside school’s are maxing out.

Building more buildings in South Monroe is great optics, but it’s obviously not addressing the problem.

It cannot be ignored.