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JR-2 schools surpass 5,800 enrollment

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The Jackson R-2 School District continues to grow, with more than 5,800 students in the district this school year. The enrollment numbers, which were presented to the school board on Sept. 13, indicate an increase of 162 students from last September.

The majority of the increase can be seen at Jackson High School, with high school enrollment increasing from 1730 to 1805 students. The junior high school and middle school saw slight increases – with 17 additional students at the junior high and two more students at the middle school.

Elementary school enrollment increased by 88 students across the district, with increases of 20 or more students at North Elementary School, East Elementary School and West Lane Elementary School. The district also saw an increase of 14 early childhood students.

“We are continuing to see growth,” Smith said. “We are anticipating that will continue moving forward, and it has been a main topic of discussion.”

Smith added that the beginning of the school year has been great, including the delayed start time at Orchard Drive Elementary School due to a bus driver shortage. “That has gone over very well,” Smith said. “Our staff has adapted tremendously, as have our parents. It’s been much better than anticipated.”

In other action:

• The board amended the 2021-2022 budget to add actual expenditures and revenue. The district spent $66.86 million in expenditures and received $68.07 million in revenue last school year.

The district ended the school year on June 30 with a reserve balance of 15.85%, which was significantly lower than the district’s 20.86% reserve balance at the end of the 2020-2021 school year and 20.86% reserve balance at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

The reserve balance is calculated by dividing the district’s remaining operating funds by the district’s operating expenses. The district started the 2021-2022 school year with a total fund balance of $20.25 million and ended the year with $19.04 million.

The school board voted last month to not use any property tax funds this year for capital improvement projects in order to bolster its reserve balance.

Associate Superintendent and Chief Financial Officer Matt Lacy said the district’s reserve balance increased to 20.5% in July, but is expected to decrease throughout the fall.

• The board approved the district’s programs to help homeless and migrant students. Fifteen students have been identified as homeless as of Sept. 2 this school year and one student has been identified as migratory.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) classifies children as homeless if they lack “a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence,” including those who live in shelters, cars, public places or substandard housing.

Students can also be classified as homeless if they are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds due to the lack of alternate adequate accommodations or if they are sharing the housing of other people due to economic hardship or the loss of housing.

Associate Superintendent Jessica Maxwell said parents can identify their family as homeless during enrollment or staff members can report suspected situations of homelessness to school social workers.

Maxwell said cases are verified by social workers, who then provide support to these families and connect them to housing resources in the community.

The district had 43 students who were identified as homeless over the course of last school year, dropping from 71 students during the 2020-2021 school year and 105 during the 2019-2020 school year. The district has on average had around 112 homeless students each year since 2012.

“Last year our numbers dropped significantly – which was peculiar to us because, more than ever, we have lots of families in need,” Maxwell said, adding that some families refuse to be classified as homeless despite meeting the criteria.

Students can be identified as a migrant if the student or one of their parents/guardians has moved in the past 36 months as a migratory agricultural worker or a migratory fisher.

Maxwell said this school year was the first time, to her knowledge, that the district has had a student who classifies as a migrant. She added that in addition to migrant support, this student is also receiving English learner services.

• The board approved a new professional development plan for the school board, fulfilling the first goal of the district’s strategic plan approved this summer.

The professional development plan includes the creation of an annual full-day board retreat, an specific work session each year regarding the financial condition of the district, the completion of annual board member training from the Missouri School Board Association and the development of a plan for board members to receive updates on current legal topics affecting schools.

Smith and School Board President Brian Thompson developed the plan with additional survey input from board members.
Smith said the district is on schedule to fulfill the goals listed in the strategic plan, with subcommittees on academics, facility improvements, finances and creating the portrait of a graduate have already begun meeting.

“The meetings have been very informative – getting to listen to what the public and our staff envision for our district,” Smith said, adding that the subcommittees should begin presenting to the board in November.

• The district extended a contract with Burnett Landscape Management for the 2023 mowing season to mow the lawns of all district buildings. The two-year contract with Burnett was approved in 2020, with an option for the district to extend the contract for a third year.

“The third-year extension gives the district an out if we are not satisfied with the level of work we are getting or if we want to rebid the process,” Assistant Superintendent Keenan Kinder said.

Kinder said Burnett has done an excellent job and prices would go up if the district rebids mowing services. The mowing season starts March 15 and ends Oct. 31 each year.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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