R-2 District Sees Dramatic Drop in Class of 2023 Graduates: Pandemic Over Academic Decline, Shortage of Credit Hours – Gasconade County Republicans | Team Cansler

By Roxie Murphy, staff writer

The Gasconade County R-2 School District experienced its most dramatic drop in enrollment in the 2022-23 school year, which will result in fewer than 100 students graduating in the senior year of Owensville High School – largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic .

According to a graphic in Monday night’s board report, Superintendent Dr. Jeri Kay Hardy the senior class of 2022-23 with 99 enrolled students. However, in the 2019/20 school year, at the start of the pandemic, 133 students were enrolled in the same class – reflecting that the group used to have an average class size but is now minus 34 classmates.

“So we can say it’s a direct result of the pandemic,” Hardy said Tuesday afternoon. “If you look at this year’s seniors, we lost 35. They either dropped out of school or are being homeschooled. You don’t learn virtually in the district. We can only look back at the numbers and see that it’s probably because of the pandemic. It’s the smallest grade in kindergarten through twelfth grade and it didn’t start like that.”

Hardy said Oct. 17 that the class of 2022-23 has been hardest hit by the pandemic.

“They’re the class that seems to have the biggest impact numerically,” she said. “We knew we would have some impact from the pandemic.”

The graduating class were freshmen in 2020.

“The pandemic has had different effects on different people and students,” Hardy said. “One possible effect was that students started to socially distance more, some joined the workforce, which could be a factor in some of the missing students.”

Hardy added that not all students are absent.

“I don’t know that all 35 are just gone,” she said. “But they don’t graduate on time.”

She explained that some of the students who remained enrolled were in arrears on their loans and, due to a clerical error, were placed at junior, sophomore, and in some cases even freshman level.

“Many students have not been successful with virtual learning,” Hardy said. “If they decided they wanted to go back to school, they had to pass those courses, but they were behind and I think that had a negative impact as well.”

In the 2020/21 school year, students and parents could continue to opt for virtual learning.

“If a student decides to do virtual learning through MOCAP, people have to write to Missouri to choose a program they want to use,” Hardy said. “When a student decides to go in that direction, parents need to look for providers that are out there. The majority of students who chose virtual learning have not been successful.”

The majority of unsuccessful virtual learners had similar stories.

“A lot of these were tasks that didn’t get completed,” Hardy said. “You have to be confident to do these courses because there’s no one who says, ‘You have to give something away.’ Due dates are there, but no teacher contacts you to say you didn’t get it or didn’t get the job done.

She stressed that many of the 2022-23 graduating students were only 14 or 15 years old when the pandemic began. From 2019-20 to 2020-21, enrollment fell from 133 to 119 students in the graduating class of 2023. It fell to 107 in 2021-22 and finally to 99 in 2022-23.

Hardy emphasized that while this class was hit the hardest, those who stayed enrolled and are behind on their credits can still catch up via summer classes and credit recovery.

The typo that causes high school students to drop credits into subclasses gives a better picture of how many students are behind. For example, the graduating class of 2023-24 has 138 students, up from 163 at the start of the 2019-20 pandemic. Student enrollment for the class increased to 175 in 2020-21 and then dropped dramatically to 148 students in 2021-22 before leveling off at 138 this school year.

“The class (2023-24) — you can probably attribute some of the juniors to the pandemic, but not all, because when they went back into their freshman year, they were in high school,” Hardy said.
She explained that unlike the lower grades, missed time equated to missing credits in high school. The junior class would have started its first year with a clean slate.

However, the sophomore and freshman grades also report unusual increases and decreases in enrollments, both of which are due to the spelling error that high schoolers show in lower grades because they lack the credit hours to graduate. Class 2024-25 (sophomore) had 137 students enrolled in 2019-20; 129 students in the 2020-21 academic year; 171 students in 2021-22; and 132 in 2022-23.

The 2025-26 graduating class had 145 students in 2019-20; 145 in 2020-21; 144 in 2021-22; and 180 students in 2022-23. The recent surge in college entrants is likely due to high school students being reassigned to the lower grades.
“The coverage this year was different than last year,” Hardy said. “Some of the students may not have enough credits to be considered junior, but they can catch up on those credits by attending summer school. Some may be missing credits due to the pandemic and may have attempted online courses. Others may be missing credits due to failed courses.”

The district incorrectly reported the numbers, resulting in students being matched to grade level by credits rather than years of enrollment. The error is corrected.

“In second grade, some kids may not have enough credits to be considered second grade,” Hardy said. “The school district encodes this information with (the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) DESE to reflect that the students are with their correct class cohorts. Some of the juniors could be considered as sophomores and freshmen.”

Hardy added that the average daily attendance for the district should also increase as students are not being forced into quarantine due to COVID. “We are now heading into the post-pandemic phase,” Hardy said. “Students are more successful when they are present and learning at school.”

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