Overall, it’s clear that, by the numbers, the lake has not seen the school population increase that was rumored to be a big factor in the 2020-21 school year.

In August, when schools were reopening their doors for the first time since the COVID pandemic began, it was unclear by lake districts whether or not the real estate boom seen at the Ozarks would bring a dramatic change to enrollment number. Now, a month into the school year, enrollment numbers are steady and lake Superintendents have seen the effects take place.

The Lake Sun reported in August that real estate sales in the area had toppled the previous first-half sales for 2019. In total sales, 2020 saw 1,600 sales (January to June) bringing in a volume of $371,100,581. This is $51,463,673 more than the same timeframe in 2019, which yielded $319,636,908. With a 17% increase in transactions in Residential, villas and townhomes on the waterfront, as well as a 5% increase in transactions in residential, villas and townhomes offshore, the affordable market saw a dramatic increase.

School of the Osage Superintendent Laura Nelson says the district has kept steady enrollment numbers in 2020, similar to the previous three years. The enrollment count as of Sept. 15 was 2082. Compared to 2076 in 2019, 2055 in 2018 and 2027 in 2017, this number is higher, but in a consistent growth pattern to previous years.

Osage currently has 168 students enrolled in virtual schooling. Nelson says the board of education recently modified their re-entry plan to extend the option of rejoining seated instruction and several families took the opportunity.

Camdenton R-III Superintendent Tim Hadfield provided a similar comparison of enrollment totals as Nelson, with 2020 actually seeing the district’s lowest enrollment count. The district enrollment currently sits at 3958, compared to 4128 in 2019, 4108 in 2018 and 4197 in 2017.

Camdenton also has a significant student population utilizing virtual learning, with 549 enrolled and 67 utilizing the LAUNCH program.

“Overall these options are working well,” Hadfield said. “These various approaches have given our families options for their child's learning modality. The distance learning option has added to our staff's workload especially at the secondary level. This is a challenge for our staff members who have many different classes they teach during the day. They are not only teaching our in seat students, but they are also educating our distance learners.”

Eldon Superintendent Matt Davis also confirmed that their numbers had seen a minimal change in 2020. Their current enrollment sits at 1896, compared to 1885 in 2019 and 1931 in 2018. He says they currently have 60 students utilizing virtual learning, though also commented that the platform is not having as much success as they would like to see. He says they are working with parents to find out what measures can be taken to improve their student’s learning through the rest of the year.

Versailles Superintendent Steven Barnes confirmed that the district had in fact seen a drop in enrollment in 2020. Currently, the district has an enrollment of 1248, compared to 1298 in 2019. He believes this is partly due to normal fluctuations, but also due to an increase of home-schooled students.

Versailles has 137 students enrolled in virtual learning, which Barnes confirmed was also not going as well as the district had hoped at the start. However, he says they have continued to make improvements to the design of the courses and are more comfortable with student engagement.

“It is too early to determine how successful our students will be with this program, but we are monitoring their progress closely and working to support them at home any way we can,” Barnes said.

Finally in Macks Creek, Superintendent Phillips says they have seen a small increase in enrollment. The district currently has 333 students enrolled, which is a 1% increase from 326 in 2019. Being one of the smaller districts at the lake, Phillips doens’t believe they would have seen an increase even if the real estate boom had made much of a school impact in general.

Macks Creek has all 333 of their students enrolled in in-person classes. With a lower student-to-teacher ratios compared to other districts, he says it has been easier for them to maintain social distacning guidelines.

“To date, we only had one student test positive and 12 close contacts. During their quarantine period, these students did utilize distance learning. We are grateful to our teachers and parents for being able to pivot from in-seat learning to distance learning immediately,” Phillips said.

Overall, it’s clear that, by the numbers, the lake has not seen the school population increase that was rumored to be a big factor in the 2020-21 school year.