Over the past year or two, I've had many questions from parents and alums about the school's decision to grow the student body. As we head into the middle of our admissions season, I thought it would be a good time for me to share some of our reasoning.
Over time, enrollment has grown: from 200 students in 1927, to 400 in 1960, to 600 in 2008 (600 was the maximum number of students allowed by the City of Ladue). But between 1989 and 2016, the acreage of the campus grew from 28 to 49; the square footage of the buildings on campus increased by nearly 50 percent as did the available parking; and the faculty and staff grew significantly. During that time, the student population remained fairly steady.
When approval was given to Burroughs to build the new STAR building, we also were granted permission to grow the student body from 600 to 650. A real opportunity for growth was in the ninth grade. For the past 7 to 8 years, we have had 80 to 90 applications for only a handful of spaces in ninth grade, and it was quite painful to turn away many strong candidates. Moreover, these applicants frequently came from schools that did not regularly have high numbers of seventh grade applicants to Burroughs. Many public and parochial students had not considered independent schools until ninth grade, when they were faced with high school.
To better accommodate the demand, we have decided to keep seventh and eighth grades at roughly 100 students with typically seven sections for each subject. In ninth grade, we are adding a section that could be filled from this pool, giving the ninth grade a class of 110 students. We admitted the first "extra" class two years ago to the class of 2021 — the current sophomores. Last year, we admitted 16 kids to join the class of 2022 — the current freshmen. We'll do the same this year, and next, and ultimately hope to see a student body that is still balanced by gender and has 100 in grades seven and eight, and 110 to 112 in grades nine through twelve.
So why grow at all? The board, the faculty and staff, and I agree that Burroughs is a truly life-changing experience, one we would like to make available to as many kids as possible. At the same time, one of the things that makes Burroughs so special is our sense of intimacy and community, and part of that comes from our size — we wouldn't be the same school if we were one or two thousand students. That is why we've chosen to grow in very small increments — only 1 to 2 percent per year — so that we can assess the feeling of the school at each step of the way.
Will this increase class sizes? Actually, no — it will reduce them. We have added teachers to cover the sections each year, and the sections we are adding improve the student-teacher ratio. It also gives greater flexibility to our schedulers to give more students their first choices in electives. Moreover, having additional students will ensure that we are able to keep all of our clubs, athletic teams and art offerings filled so that we can offer an even more broad array of opportunities.
Will it mean overcrowding on the campus? With the addition of the STAR building, the square footage per student has increased, even with the additional bodies on campus.
What about parking? While we have more than ample parking for school traffic, many afternoons when there are athletic contests and the middle schoolers haven't departed, it does get tight on the Clayton Road lot. Our hope over the next few years is to add additional parking in our Clayton Road lot.
Above all else, though, I look at the students and parents who have joined the Burroughs community through the ninth-grade admissions funnel and marvel at the incredible contributions they make to the life of the school — on the stage, in the classrooms, in the athletic fields and as friends in the Commons. Burroughs would not be Burroughs without them and this recent change is going to allow us to offer the Burroughs experience to more students, who will in turn enrich the experience for the rest of us.