Columbia and Jefferson City public schools see enrollment surge

Aug 16, 2012

As public school starts Thursday in both Columbia and Jefferson City, those school districts are dealing with a surge in student enrollment. To deal with this, the districts have hired several teachers at the last minute to maintain a healthy ratio of students to instructors.

Although enrollment numbers are expected to fluctuate for the next few weeks, Columbia and Jefferson City have added several teachers at the elementary level to accommodate the influx of younger students.

David Luther, an assistant superintendent in Jefferson City, says he’s seen a trend in increasing numbers over the past four years – especially in the earliest grade levels.  One hundred additional students have enrolled in Kindergarten through fifth grade since last year.

"We were prepared for these numbers more or less," said Luther "We did have to add one Kindergarten class at North Elementary so we hired a teacher."

That teacher was hired about 10 days ago. Luther said the district has about 3 teachers on standby just in case enrollment swells in the first week of classes.

In Columbia, a handful of teachers already have been added. And while the numbers are still fuzzy, spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said the district is ready to add more teachers should the numbers warrant it.

"We’ve set aside a contingency fund to account for any of the sudden spikes we might see in enrollment as kids come to us those first couple of weeks so that we can address those needs immediately," said Baumstark.

Each district abides by the student to teacher ratio suggested by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. For younger students, the class size is smaller and it grows as the students progress to middle school and high school.

So where exactly are all these kids coming from? Baumstark and Luther say reasons could include new families moving in or the affordability of public school over private school. School officials will have a better idea in a few weeks once numbers settle down and the summer vacation stragglers show up for roll call.