By Terry Dean
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.