District 97 sees largest enrollment since the '70s

Student population may top 5,900 next year

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

District 97 projects that next year's enrollment could hit 5,900 students, the largest number of kids enrolled since the 1970s when enrollment was well over 6,000. 

Kindergarten registration last spring is helping to push up next year's numbers, as a larger-than-usual number of families have so far registered for the program, according to D97 officials. 

A total of 494 kids registered for kindergarten in May, a higher number than last year's totals, said Steve Cummins, the director of human resources. In all, 514 kids have registered so far for kindergarten as an additional 20 youngsters registered for the program in June. 

"We will see what transpires over the summer, but the May data at this time appears to suggest that families were more pro-active in registering during the spring registration dates than in the prior year," Cummins said.

The district, he added, will have a better idea of actual enrollment numbers by August. The district had roughly 600 enrolled by the start of the last school year.

Overall, the district is inching closer to the 6,000 student population, as projected by 2018, according to the district's consultant, Ehlers and Associates, which has done enrollment studies for both D97 and District 200. By 2020, D200's enrollment is expected to be roughly 3,900 students — current enrollment is about 3,200 kids. 

D97's enrollment is approaching levels not seen in more than 40 years. From 1971 to 1977, enrollment was over 6,000, the highest year being 1975 at roughly 6,400 students. By 1977, enrollment dropped to 5,710 students and continued a downward trend in subsequent years. 

By 1980, enrollment fell below 5,000 and hovered in the 4,000 range for rest of the decade. The '90s began with enrollment at just under 5,000, exceeding that mark beginning in the 1991-1992 school year with 5,073 students. 

Enrollment dipped below 5,000 kids again by 2002. But following the launch of full-day kindergarten across the district in 2008-2009, enrollment began its steady upward climb to the current 5,800 student body figure. That trend has also impacted D200 as students move up to the high school, according to Ehlers. 

Both districts are exploring how to increase space and add more staff to accommodate the influx of students. Cummins said D97 has not reached any tipping point for the coming school year, but space needs are a concern.

"We look at enrollment numbers by building and determine the number of sections accordingly," he said. "Adding additional classroom sections, at kindergarten or other grade levels, is a concern in several of our buildings where there are more building space constraints. In these situations, we can consider utilizing other options, such as having a teacher's assistant in a classroom with a teacher who has a larger number of students."

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District 97 projects enrollment to reach 6,000 by 2018

Reader Comments

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Dreamer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 27th, 2014 2:55 PM

What would be really instructive,would be for Terry Dean to publish the number of teachers corresponding to these various attendance levels.If I'm not mistaken,OPRF has about 40 more teachers now,than it's peak attendance of the early 70's.I expect the same is true for District 97.I cannot get an answer from either administration,but perhaps a reporter could be more persuasive.

OP Res 253 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 25th, 2014 1:30 PM

100% of the full day kindergarten contributes to the increase--part time students are not counted in enrollment, nor funded by the state. Which is why it actually reduced our local costs significantly to go to a full time schedule. This growth is smaller than the referendum scare tour touted. In a 2/22/2010 presentation, D97 predicted a student body of 6,069 in 2014. so the funding should be more than adequate if the leadership could manage to be.

OP from Oak Park  

Posted: June 25th, 2014 1:16 PM

Today's story about OPRF's denial of 167 students due to questionable residency (which is reported to be the highest number in recent years) made me think back to this story about D97's largest enrollment since the 70's. What is D97 doing to verify and investigate residency?


Posted: June 19th, 2014 8:39 PM

Before full day kindergarten many kids began D97 in 1st grade. So how much of the increase is due to higher numbers of kids in kindergarten and how much is due to higher numbers after kindergarten? Seems to me that higher numbers in kindergarten raises the total number of students without necessarily increasing the number of kids in later grades.


Posted: June 18th, 2014 8:29 AM

I have several thoughts and questions regarding this issue, but my main "question" relates to the recent effect of D7 adding all-day kdg AND pre-kdg on the comparisons between different years? Further, OPRFHS is "planning" on enrollment figures equal to the baby boom years, but these numbers don't appear to support the expensive spending plans they are considering. Is there any chance that the WJ can provide a better picture of these numbers with PER-GRADE enrollment from D97 and D90?


Posted: June 18th, 2014 5:45 AM

This is no suprise as older generations (like my parents) left and couple with kids exit city. Perhaps the more relevant question is quality not quantity. What is being done all these students are getting best education possible and infrastrucutre/process etc to ensure it?

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