OPRF enrollment expected to grow by 500

Student population could near 4,000 in seven years

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Oak Park and River Forest High School's enrollment is expected to grow by more than 500 students in the coming years, according to updated enrollment projections released by District 200.

Much of the projected growth stems from students coming from Oak Park Elementary District 97, according to Ehlers & Associates, the Lisle-based firm that has studied enrollment trends in both districts. D97 and D200 hired the firm to look at enrollment. OPRF's current enrollment is roughly 3,200 students but is projected to peak at just under 4,000 students in seven years.

According to Ehlers' findings, enrollment levels at both D97 and River Forest District 90 are at their highest levels in 10 years. Changing neighborhood demographics, including the availability of affordable housing and new parents moving into the area, is contributing to the enrollment spikes, according to Ehlers. 

OPRF's enrollment has been steady over the last two years but is expected to increase annually over the next five years. The total projected enrollment over that time is 535 students, according to Ehlers, which released its updated report to the D200 school board on Feb. 27. The annual increases run from the mid-70s to as high as 163 students. 

That growth is coming from D97, which, according to Ehlers, has seen nearly 900 more kids enrolled in the district since 2004. D97's current enrollment is about 5,800 students. Kindergarten enrollment has steadily increased in recent years in D97, Ehlers notes. The firm projects OPRF's enrollment at 3,755 students by the 2018-2019 school year and 3,908 kids by 2020. 

In D97, enrollment is expected to reach 6,000 students by 2018. 

In anticipation, both Oak Park school districts are exploring significant changes to their school buildings, such as reconfiguring or constructing space, including adding classrooms and/or study areas. 

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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Posted: March 7th, 2014 10:29 AM

I'm confused. First, there is this from above: "According to Ehlers' findings, enrollment levels at both D97 and River Forest District 90 are at their highest levels in 10 years." But then I found this: and this: http://illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?districtID=06016090002. "This" means that D90 enrollment has DECLINED from past years and per the previous Ehlers report (Nov, 2011), D90 has been on a slow decline the past 10 years. Trust, but verify!


Posted: March 6th, 2014 3:25 PM

Maybe......just maybe...there will be a huge influx of home schooled children who will jump ship and enroll into the public school system?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2014 3:06 PM

Thanks for your comment, Peter. I would be interested in seeing the methodology and the data sources Ehlers & Associates used--not because I doubt it, but because I'm geeky in that way. :-)


Posted: March 6th, 2014 3:03 PM

How many of those kids will actually live in Oak Park? I'm sure this will result in another unnecessary call to increase taxes.

The Brad from OP  

Posted: March 6th, 2014 12:20 PM

"Availability of affordable housing". Ugh.


Posted: March 6th, 2014 10:50 AM

@Mr. Traczyk. Thanks for your comment. However, I'd be even more grateful if you expanded "actual enrollment numbers are at the mid to high end of....study" comment with a link to those figures that you are referring to. One "thought" for D97 increases? Panic from "liberal" and white parents on where to send their kids to school. They want to be near jobs in Chgo, in a school district which doesn't "scare" them, AND IS AFFORDABLE! Forest Park, Elmwood Park, or Berwyn? Nope - "too scary."

Peter Traczyk from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 6th, 2014 10:05 AM

The real enrollment experience of D97 is in stark contrast to the census trends of lower birthrates. I am as puzzled as anyone why the enrollment has increased, but they've not made any mistakes counting the actual children that have enrolled. There's some anecdotal evidence that during the recession some families might have chosen the public schools over our local private schools. There's also strong sentiment from our realtor community that families with school-age children move to Oak Park for our public schools. Ehlers & Associates has a department that focuses on demographics and enrollment studies specific to school districts. A large part of the methodology is based on "cohort survival", in other words, what percentage of Kindergartners become 1st grades, and so on. D200 gets the benefit of knowing what the D97 and D90 cohort sizes are, so their study is likely proportionally more accurate. For D97, the actual enrollment numbers are at the mid to high end of the Ehlers study.


Posted: March 6th, 2014 8:13 AM

Bridgett, keep in mind that the Census doesn't track trends. You're just seeing two 10 year numbers without context. That's why more research is needed. For instance, my son was included in the 2010 Census but we've had another child since then. So if you relied on the 2000-2010 change, you'd miss that from my household we'll be sending double what is listed.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2014 1:16 AM

Looking at the data from 2000 to 2010 for Oak Park, the number of 0-4 year olds went down 7.89%. So how is it that the number of students is going up? Here's the source... http://censusviewer.com/city/IL/Oak%20Park

RLM from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 10:49 PM

I'm not sure why this is so hard to believe. The last few years all of the schools have had a huge bump; Holmes has had to add teachers unexpectedly 3 times in the last 5 years, and Longfellow had to add classes a couple of years ago as well. That kindergarten class that got added last year at Holmes will eventually end up at the high school. Check the board report from the fall; D97 has HUGE numbers, and Brooks has kids still transferring in mid-year. They are coming fast and furious.

Bill Masterson from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 10:16 PM

Numbers must be a consultant. I don't have a problem spending money on the public schools; but spend it in the classroom. Regarding the demographics, have you ever heard of the Census Bureau ? A few clicks will give you the information you need.


Posted: March 5th, 2014 5:01 PM

As usual, the comments on this site assume that school admins are spendthrifts and idiots. Of course, the trends of CURRENT students can be tracked with calls to the schools. These projection firms look at birth rates, community demographics, new or existing private schools opening that would compete, residential patterns, etc. But of course, Bill would have advocated for the least scientific method and then complained that those numbers turned out wrong, too. Never spend a dime!

OP Resident # 545 from OAK PARK  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 3:32 PM

From the start, this population growth projection doesn't pass the smell test. Yes, new parents are moving in, but not at a greater rate than the attrition of current teens who graduate. Total OP population isn't growing substantially & will never reach the baby-boom years when most families had 4+ kids. We'll all need to do more digging, but I smell a money grab. I hate to be cynical, but something's not right here.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 3:24 PM

"Ehler's is an independent financial advisory company that has served public sector clients throughout the Midwest." - That is from the Ehler's and Associates web site. Why is a financial advisory company doing population projections for our schools?

Bill Masterson from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 2:27 PM

Wonder how many phone calls or emails to the various schools it would have taken to get the same information ? Wait I forgot we live in Oak Park, better to spread the money around and hire a consulting firm. Soooo happy with the good stewardship of the tax payers money.


Posted: March 5th, 2014 1:24 AM

Question: How much of the D97 enrollment increase of "900 more kids enrolled in the district since 2004" is due to addition of pre-kdg and all-day kdg? I also read that RF enrollment has not increased since 2004. Therefore, how does an enrollment increase in OP's pre-k to 8th grade district of 900 students lead to a similar increase in the 9 - 12 district? Translated: I'm comparing a 10-yr cohort with a 4-yr cohort. I'm skeptical because I fear that OPRF wants to spend our/their surplus on this

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