Whether it’s because people just genuinely prefer the charm of a smaller town, or because the schools are just that good, Wentzville isn’t complaining. The western St. Charles County town boasts the fastest-growing schools in the state.
To accommodate the high demand, the Wentzville School District has added 11 new schools since 2000, two of which will be opening this fall. There are 16,000 students currently enrolled in the district’s schools; that’s 10,000 more than were enrolled in its schools 17 years ago and a 52 percent increase just since 2007. And it’s projected that the number will increase by another 6,000 over the next decade, only continuing the trend of the district having the fastest-growing schools in the state.
Wabash Elementary in Foristell is one of two new elementary schools (with a 900-student capacity, each) that the district is opening this week, as a result of a 25-cent property tax rate increase that was passed by voters in 2015 — the second school tax increase within four years. The district actually spent $208 million on new facilities between 2000 and 2015.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the school board voted in June to approve a $13 million budget for future facility construction — something that’s greatly needed because Wabash already has 803 students enrolled for the year. They can barely build schools fast enough to keep pace with the area’s booming population growth, much of which is being caused by families moving in from St. Louis.
The overall trend is still a thinning out of the metro population and continuing forms of sprawl and suburban development,” Todd Swanstrom, a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said.“Young families tend to move out where they get more space but also to access high-performing school districts, which are viewed as better than perhaps some inner-ring or urban schools.”
Made up of residents in Wentzville, Dardenne Prairie, Foristell, Lake Saint Louis, and O’Fallon, the Wentzville School District is also finding itself attractive to teachers, with nearly 4,000 teachers applying for 135 open positions.
“We do consider ourselves quite fortunate to see what we’re seeing with regards to our growth,” Curtis Cain, the superintendent of Wentzville schools, said.
But he also pointed out that the growth is not just due to the schools being of high quality themselves. The cities in the district are attractive themselves because of their low crime rate, increased quality of life, low housing costs, and the ability to still commute to jobs in St. Louis.
“It has a small-town feel with the amenities of a big city,” Dan Lang, Wentzville’s director of economic development, said of Wentzville, which has an estimated population of 37,000.
Orchard Farm, another school district in St. Charles County, has the second-highest school growth in the state, with a 45 percent increase in number of students since 2007.
What are your thoughts about Missouri’s fastest-growing schools? Do you have any other theories as to why Wentzville tops the list? Let’s get the conversation started in the comments below!