Student counts up in Monett, Purdy, PC

Friday, August 15, 2014

Superintendents report area districts open smoothly

Attendance on the first day of school at Monett and surrounding school districts shows increased numbers in most districts, reversing downward trends in recent years. All four districts reported smooth openings despite construction projects.

Monett

In Monett, the number of students from kindergarten through high school grew to 2,253, up 22 from a year ago.

"That's up about a percent, which is a better trend," said Superintendent Brad Hanson. "Last year, we were down 15 or so."

The tally at Monett High School was particularly interesting. Except for 2010, first day attendance has topped 600. This year, the count reached a record 698, positioning the school to top 700 for the first time in light of a post-Labor Day influx. Hanson called that "very significant."

The kindergarten class, which hit a high of 188 in 2011 and offers a window into future school class sizes, fell for the third consecutive year. Hanson called that pattern "a little concerning." The early childhood class for pre-kindergarten students also inched downward slightly for the third consecutive year.

Seven classes had more than 180 students, two of which are at the high school. The freshmen topped them all with 195, the second largest class ever on first day, slightly behind the kindergarten class of 2006 with 204. It will be two more years before one of the giant classes pushes high school graduation to a new record.

The opening of school ran quite smoothly, Hanson reported, despite the closing of the circle drive at the high school for the movement of materials for the performing arts center construction at the high school. Movement of heavy equipment in and out of the middle school safe room construction area complicated the movement of vehicles letting off and picking up students at the intermediate and mididle schools.

"All campuses did great for a first day," Hanson said. "We're off to a good start."

A breakdown of first day attendance by class follows, with a comparison to last year's first day:

Early childhood, 87 (-8); kindergarten, 161 (-6); first, 184 (+1); second, 156 (-28); third, 183 (+25); fourth, 160 (+7); fifth, 153 (-24); sixth, 182 (+15); seventh, 187 (-5); eighth, 189 (-4); ninth, 195 (-1); 10th, 186 (+21); 11th, 158 (-20); 12th, 159 (+41).

Purdy

Like Monett, Purdy saw a healthy boost of 20 more students on the first day, raising the total to 680, the highest number since 2008. For six years prior to that, Purdy mustered first day totals of more than 700. The high school will feel the increase most notably with a rise of 18 students. The class entering the seventh grade has been the smallest group since 2010, now numbering 39. The freshman class has the largest tally with 61. The elementary school saw numbers rise by 13.

"Considering that the construction in the building is still incomplete, students adapted greatly and our first day back to school went quite smoothly," said Bob Vice, high school principal.

Most of the construction provided no obstruction for students. Superintendent Steven Chancellor said the new bathrooms by the cafeteria were not ready for use this week and should be finished shortly. Gym students, who have access to locker room bathrooms or others elsewhere in the building, mostly use the bathrooms on the east end of the high school, providing no serious problems for students.

The cafeteria will require additional work on the floor over the weekend, Chancellor said, plus installation of knobs and finishing touches for the new area of the cafeteria that will also serve as the concession stand. Despite major renovations, the cafeteria was ready for use on Tuesday.

Attendance numbers in Purdy are as follows:

Kindergarten, 45 (-8); first, 59 (+7); second, 54 (+8); third, 47 (-6); fourth, 61 (+12); fifth, 56 (+14); sixth, 49 (+8);

Seventh, 39 (-11); eighth, 54 (-2); ninth, 61 (+12); 10th, 55 (+11); 11th, 50 (-1); 12th, 50 (-4).

Pierce City

After opening with the lowest first day count in more than a decade last year, Pierce City saw a sharp rebound this week with 666 students, up 78 from a year ago. Not counting pre-kindergarten, the total was the highest since 2009, prior to which Pierce City started with more than 700 students.

The big change this year involved moving the fifth graders from Central Elementary to the middle school. Superintendent Russ Moreland said the switch to an eight-period day at the high school and middle school created two empty classrooms at the middle school.

"Most districts do grades five to eight together," Moreland said. "We talked to several districts, found out how they did it and felt like it was conducive for us. It also kind of evens out the number of students per building."

Central Elementary and the high school started the year with only a difference of two students. The middle school had 35 less.

Gayla DeGraffenreid, middle school principal, held an orientation session just for the fifth graders during the summer, giving students a tour and familiarizing them with the schedule. Moreland said the fifth graders will be less mobile than the higher grades, but will be well-oriented to begin sixth grade next year.

Buses ran as usual, with the only change dropping off the fifth graders on the hill with the other middle school students. Moreland said the other operational switch involved planning meals, decreasing the numbers at Central Elementary and raising them for the cafeteria in the high school.

"First day was interesting," Moreland said. "Maybe it was because of all the snow days we had and summer school close to regular school, but it felt like we had a longer break than usual.

"But, teachers know what they're doing, kids get here and we have school. It went very smoothly."

The high school population rose to 233, the largest since 2009. Pierce City's largest class was the sophomores with 62, and four of the seven classes have more than 50 students. Kindergarten has the smallest class with 41.

First day numbers for Pierce City are as follows:

Kindergarten, 41 (-3); first, 47 (-6); second, 52 (+9); third, 49 (+7); fourth, 46 (-9); fifth, 54 (+10); sixth, 47 (-1); seventh, 51 (-1); eighth, 46 (+3); ninth, 58 (-8); 10th, 62 (+8); 11th, 55 (+1); 12th, 58 (+20).

Verona

First day numbers in Verona have bounced for a decade between a high of 424 in 2011 and a low of 365 in 2004, and this year, Verona saw a 20-student drop from last year. Opening numbers of 395 fell in line with the 2009 and 2012 counts.

The senior class, with 19, represented the smallest group in the school. The fifth-graders had the largest group at 40. Only four of 13 classes showed increases.

Superintendent Tony Simmons said additional students came to enroll on the second day. School officials would try to track students whose location was now not known.

Simmons said opening day went "really well."

The new early childhood center, set up in a district-renovated house purchased on the east side of the school, provided a new stop for buses and some variation to past traffic patterns.

Verona's first day numbers are as follows:

Kindergarten, 31 (-10); first, 34 (+6); second, 25 (-5); third, 33 (+3); fourth, 32 (-2); fifth, 40 (-3); sixth, 30 (same);

Seventh, 28 (-14); eighth, 36 (+9); ninth, 23 (-5); 10th, 26 (-19); 11th, 38th (+15); 12th, 19 (-1).

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