Despite a summer door-to-door campaign to boost enrollment, the number of students attending St. Paul Public Schools has slipped in 2018-19.
The number of preschoolers through high school seniors who generate state funding is 36,872, a 314-student drop from a year ago.
Take preschoolers out of the mix, and the district fell 340 K-12 students shy of what it projected when it began to assemble its annual budget last spring.
The development, which awaits confirmation by the state, comes a year after the number of revenue-producing students rose a bit in the state’s second-largest district. That was the exception, however, for a school system that has acknowledged it has suffered enrollment declines.
The enrollment report was presented to school board members late Tuesday afternoon. After the report, Superintendent Joe Gothard said he sees potential to improve enrollment by focusing on middle schools, which will be part of his strategic plan. He also was encouraged by this summer’s enrollment campaign.
This summer, nine district educators knocked on more than 7,300 doors in a canvassing effort led by the St. Paul Federation of Teachers. About 100 kids were enrolled, and while 21 of those were current students looking for new schools, the federation saw value in connecting personally with families.
“To me, it’s not a one-and-done effort. It needs to continue,” Gothard said of the project, dubbed “Select SPPS.”
Elsewhere, teachers in the Milwaukee Public Schools also went door-to-door this year — again with mixed results.
Hopes were high in the summer, but in September, when the students showed, enrollment was down by 650 students in the 66,000-student system.
That district’s superintendent pointed out, however, that the school system was within 99 percent of what it projected in the spring, and that the summer campaign — complete with enrollment buses — “truly helped us from sliding further back,” a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report said.
A year ago, St. Paul said that its revenue-generating population was up 88 students from the previous year. But the district also noted then that its K-12 numbers continued to slide.
This year’s report made other points as well:
• Preschool to kindergarten continuation rates remained high: about 80 percent.
• The number of kindergartners exceeded projections, with this school year’s 3,000-plus student class being the district’s largest.
• The percentages of English language learners and special education students have shown little change since their respective peaks in 2011-12.
• Total enrollment has declined in seven of the past 10 years.
Looking ahead, the district plans to return to an all-grades format for its annual school choice fair next month. This comes after it shifted to preschool and kindergarten only for the 2016-17 school year. The fair is set to run from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 12 at the RiverCentre downtown.