Enrollment woes continue for the St. Paul Public Schools, with a 948-student drop in the all-important category of those who generate state revenue.
Figures presented to the school board Tuesday night showed total enrollment in the state's second-largest district at 36,994 students in preschool through high school, and state-funded enrollment at 35,906.
Superintendent Joe Gothard told board members that he now will direct his staff to review programs and building capacity, as well as school choice and enrollment trends, throughout the district.
The district had been on alert to potential elementary school losses as it executed a long-awaited plan to shift secondary students to later start times so they could sleep longer and, hopefully, improve their performance in the classroom.
But the move required the district to change the start times for 10,000-plus children at 24 schools from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. — leaving many parents who had safety and child care concerns to consider other school options.
Jackie Turner, the district's chief operations officer, told the board that results are inconclusive as to whether earlier start times affected enrollment in grades one through five. But, she said, there has been a potential negative impact for kindergarten. As of Oct. 1, the analysis showed, the district had 243 fewer kindergartners than it had a year ago, the biggest loss across all grades.
"It's been several years since we've seen a decrease," Turner said.
The district traditionally makes kindergartners and preschoolers a priority in their January school choice fairs.
Minneapolis, too, has suffered on the enrollment front. Preliminary enrollment data has put the number of Minneapolis Public Schools students this year at 33,380, the lowest number in years.
St. Paul and Minneapolis both have been losers when it comes to school choice.
In 2018-19, St. Paul Public Schools lost 37% of its school-aged kids to other options — with 11,719 students attending charter schools, 4,912 in private schools and 3,645 open-enrolling to other districts.
The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale and Roseville districts drew 1,420 and 1,268 St. Paul students, respectively.
Also Tuesday, the school board unanimously approved a new contract for the seven school resource officers, or SROs, now working in seven high schools. The contract calls for the district to pay 90% of salary costs — not to exceed $775,000.
Staff writers Faiza Mahamud and MaryJo Webster contributed to this report.