School back in session, but where are all the students? NASD enrollment numbers down by 700

Published 2:53 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2022

NATCHEZ — Natchez Adams School District started the 2022-23 school year last week in full swing with few hiccups. The only problem is several teachers were teaching classes with a lot of empty desks in them, school officials said.

“At first, I thought our student-teacher ratio must’ve been very good,” school board member Phillip West said, recalling when walked through schools last week. “I thought it was a good thing.”

This optimism was short-lived as Superintendent Fred Butcher shocked school board members with a report of the enrollment numbers during a Tuesday meeting.

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“As of today, we’re about 700 students down for enrollment,” Butcher said.

Of a projected enrollment of approximately 2,800, only 1,800 started the school year, Deputy Superintendent Zandra McDonald-Green said. By Monday, enrollment increased to 2,180 as students started to register late.

Grades kindergarten through fifth grade lost the most students with 1,034 of the 1,341 expected students registered. Grades six through eight were down 162 students and the high schools were down 186 students from the numbers projected for this school year.

The report had board members questioning what may have caused the numbers to drop so drastically. Board member Diane Bunch asked whether the dwindling numbers may have been COVID-19 related. West asked if there is an issue with the online enrollment portal and whether it is user-friendly enough.

McDonald-Green said the district is doing all that it can to make sure any parent or guardian who attempts to register their child receives help.

“We’ve registered on weekends, we’ve registered after hours, we’ve done everything. Anyone who presents themselves, we’re working with those families to make sure we are registering those students. The ones we are talking about now are those who have not presented themselves at all.”

According to data from the Mississippi Department of Education, Natchez Adams School District has seen a steady decline in student enrollment each year for at least two decades.

According to MDE, the district saw its largest drop in the 2020-21 school year with a decrease of 229 students from the 2019-20 school year. Enrollment declined from 3,104 students in 2019-20 to 2,875 students in 2020-21. In the 2021-22 school year, the district had 2,829 students enrolled. School officials noted that last school year—while school started at the beginning of August—the district didn’t reach a full roster until September.

“Sometimes it just takes time,” McDonald-Green said.

Butcher added district employees would soon start calling phone numbers to find out where the students are. If that doesn’t work, the school resource officers and the dropout prevention coordinator will be knocking on doors, he said.

“We’ll have all boots on the ground,” he said.

Online registration information can be found at natchezadamsschooldistrict.org. For help getting registered for school, send an email to nasdcares@natchezschools.org.

In other matters during Tuesday’s board meeting, the school board unanimously approved a contractor for emergency roof repairs at Morgantown Elementary School and unanimously continued a Memorandum of Understanding with Copiah Lincoln Community College for dually enrolled students at Natchez Early College Academy.