Student population spikes in recent years

Ariyanna Wilkes, Staff Writer

Despite the stigma surrounding U. City’s education system, the school has shifted its focus on implementing more programs like dual credit courses, the EMT program and more. The impact is being seen as the population has grown from 671 students in 2021-2022 to 749 students this school year. 

 “We offer over 50 credit hours of dual credit so you can leave U. City high school with enough credits, [and] walk into a college with an amazing opportunity,” Kimberly Austin, associate principal, said. “We do have great programs here. Word is out that we have all of these amazing things here at U. City.”

Along with introducing more innovative programs, U. City also improved the school’s environment by choosing only the best teachers and administrators. 

“We are very strategic in who we hire as teachers, we are very specific and [want to] have our student body feel [more comfortable] and relate to teachers [and] staff,” Robyn Murry, registration specialist, said.

There has been a teacher shortage recently but the district has continued finding and hiring qualified teachers while training existing staff members to instruct in other subject areas.

“I believe that Dr. Peoples and the entire admin team have all been working really hard and diligently to just bring structure to the building,” Murry said.

In recent years, the number of students who reside in U. City but move to other districts often balances out with the number of kids who attend from outside the district.  

“Not all 8th graders come to U. City high school as freshmen so we lose a population of students but we get that same number plus some back with students who are new to the community,” Austin said.

However, with the increase this year, the effort that they have put in hasn’t gone unnoticed by the community. In fact, many parents have acknowledged it and decided to keep their children in the district.

“A percentage of students who went to private school during their freshman and sophomore year, came back for their junior year due to the innovative classes such as dual credit [and various] electives,” April Lawrenece, counselor, said.

Austin gives multiple reasons why this may have occurred.

 [I] think with the economy, with covid, people losing jobs or a change in income and lifestyle, families had to make decisions,” Austin said. “Can’t afford to pay for this private school or Catholic school. We live in the community so we’ll send our students to the school. 

However, not only do the residents of University City attend the school but students in other districts do as well. U. City welcomes any new families who wish to enroll their children.

“We are a school district that is a boarding district of several other school districts [such as] Saint Louis public, Maplewood, Richmond Heights, Ritenour, Normandy, [and] Clayton,” Austin said.

The school has been successful in bringing in new students, which has had a good impact on the school as seen by the present U. City students.

“I feel content with the number of kids here, I think it’s helpful to have not too little and not too great of a number because you’re able to make a lot of friends. But, it’s not an overwhelming number of people to the point where you feel like you’ll just blend in,” Clementine Huck, freshman, said.

Although some students have differing views on the growth, none of them are negative; rather, they are comical, having a laugh about the individual grades that have seen a rise in enrollment numbers.

“The more people, the better,” Arvell Sherman, junior, said, “It’s just a lot of lil kids, ain’t really no upperclassmen like that.”

For the counselors, the increase has been noticeable but not too disruptive. 

“Class size isn’t a problem, but still manageable,” Lawrence said. “Scheduling isn’t really too much of issue because course requests help with figuring out student schedules.

Samantha Myer, English teacher, gives her take on the increase of students.

“In the beginning, it can be chaotic because you have students who are just moving in as the weeks go through,” Myer said. “But it’s started to level out so it’s not as chaotic as people would assume having these large classes.”

She must, however, overcome several challenges as a result of the sudden increase.

“But as an English teacher, it can be harder because that’s a lot more essays and written work that I have to constantly grade and so that’s a significant workload that I have to do that can sometimes be stressful,” Myer said.

Even with all the sudden changes to U. City, staff and teachers have expressed positivity.

“Even though it can feel stressful having larger class sizes, it’s really good to have more students coming into U City.”