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Murray Journal

School District tells City Council that enrollment is down 400 students

May 03, 2021 03:43PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray classrooms retrofitted with table dividers. (Photo courtesy of Murray School District)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Murray City School District administrators told Murray City Council members at the April 14 School Coordinating Council Meeting that total student enrollment dropped dramatically during the pandemic.

Murray City School District Superintendent Jennifer Covington said, “This year, we are about 400 students down from where we were in enrollment last year. And some of that is due to the pandemic and families choosing different ways to educate their students.”

The Murray City Council meets several times a year with the school district in coordinating meetings to review services such as police, the city’s economic development plans, and the impact of tax inflow to the public schools. The school district, in turn, reports on the needs and concerns of their public institutions.

With Murray property values ascending, this means increased property tax revenue for the school district and city. However, with increased interest in developing some former retail properties to high-density housing, that would place increased demand on Murray schools.

Belinda Johnson, Murray City School Board, said, “The amount of high-density housing that goes in the Parkside (Elementary School) area…they feel like they’re just getting one after another, and it does impact the culture of a school. We love all our kids, and we want our kids there, but the turnover of an apartment building really does impact the school. 

“If you guys overlaid a district map on a city map, I think you would see that there is one area…  that seems to be heavily impacted over and over again by this high-density housing,” Johnson continued. “I know we need it to one degree, but it’s hard for the community to see that it not only does impact our school, it impacts our roads, and they’re feeling hard hit.”

With many high-density projects being proposed or already underway, such as the one going in on the former Kmart property and the mixed-use development on Bullion Street, the topic of school capacity has frequently been raised.

“We do have capacity in our schools,” Superintendent Covington said. 

However, Covington mentioned that two schools are at capacity: Viewmont and McMillan elementary schools. Should there be an impact with the Bullion Street development with crowding at Viewmont, the board can address doing things differently at that school. She also singled out Riverview Junior High School and Murray High School as having space to handle additional students.

“We do want students, like Belinda said. We want students. When individuals say that our schools are overcrowded, in one light, that is correct because Viewmont is very full. But on the other side of that, we do have capacity. We are 400 students less than we were previously, so that is something we want to work very closely with the city on. As we need to, we’ll have to make some decisions on, if developments [are approved], where those students will go. The Murray Square (former Kmart site)…students will go to Parkside Elementary. We do have capacity, and we will just have to work on busing,” Covington said.

Concerning property tax values, the school board inquired to Murray City Community and Economic Development Director Melinda Greenwood whether office space construction would generate taxable revenue. As the pandemic had opened the possibilities of working from home, would the value of Murray’s commercial buildings decrease if demand for leases declined?

“Businesses that have a culture that’s very important to them do want to get people back in the office and back working. They are finding that it is really hard to integrate new employees or younger employees and have them understand the culture. They are thinking again that the office space will be there; it will just be utilized differently. The demand for this space…initially, a lot of people thought that there would be less demand because people would be working from home, but they’re looking at just shifting that and getting people still back in the office,” Greenwood said.