BY LEANN DILBECK –
Mena School District Superintendent Benny Weston told The Pulse that the school’s administration is on what he described as a “fact finding” mission to discover the best alternatives for the district’s declining enrollment numbers.
Third quarter average enrollment, which is what the district’s funding is based on, at present day is 1,757 total students. At this same time one year ago, it was 1,842, a loss of 85 students. The district is funded $6,393 per student so the current loss can translate to a decrease in funding of $543,405.
Weston explained that the district has been turning pre-school students away for years due to space constraints so during a recent leadership meeting, the option of making space available to those students to balance the loss of other students, could according to Weston, “stabilize our enrollment.”
One of the options administration is currently considering is the restructuring of the grades. Weston explained that by moving 2nd grade from Louise Durham to Holly Harshman, three additional fully equipped classrooms could be gained for pre-school age students. “We have the room at Holly to move 2nd grade into but it would require moving 5th grade over to the Middle School,” said Weston. “A lot of middle schools are 5th through 8th grade.”
While the district does not receive funding for pre-school students, Weston said the strategy could benefit by promoting retention and future enrollment in the Mena district.
Weston said they are currently polling teachers and seeking their input at this time on this particular option, and will wait to see the results from that before determining their next move.
“When you’re losing enrollment and yet turning students away… and it is something you can fix by making a transition, it’s an option that must be considered.”
He said there was not a timeline in place of when the final determination would be made but said they will continue to seek input in order to identify the best option for the district. The next regularly scheduled Mena School Board meeting is April 22.