By Terry Dean
In the recently concluded school year at Oak Park and River Forest High School, close to 100 families had students enrolled at OPRF who were later kicked out because they were discovered not to be residents within the high school's boundaries.
Currently, all incoming freshmen are required to prove residency, though school officials in recent years have broached the idea of requiring all students to do so.
A recently released residency report by the high school shows there were 83 cases involving families with students who were able to make it through the registration process but later removed. Those cases were investigated by OPRF's residency confirmation officers (RCOs), who conduct home visits and surveillance to verify residency.
A residency check in these instances might be triggered if, say, mail is sent to a family's home address but is returned. A tip from a resident or a question raised by staff can also lead to an investigation. The report includes those families who failed to prove residency at the beginning of the school year and whose kids were never enrolled.
Janel Bishop, OPRF's assistant principal for health and safety and head of the department that oversees residency verification, pointed out that cases investigated could involve families with more than one student.
The school, she added, doesn't have approximate numbers of students removed during the school year or denied entry at the beginning, but each case does involve at least a single student. The high school also charges tuition to families whose students had to be removed — about $40,000 for the just concluded school year.
The annual residency report was released June 16.
So-called "rejected" cases totaled 129 — those cases involving students who either pulled out during the year or were initially denied enrollment. Forty-six of those cases involved families who failed to prove their residency. In those instances, families might not have had the proper documents during registration, among other circumstances.
This year saw an increase in the number of rejected cases compared to 2009-2010, when 113 cases were tallied — 91 based on RCO investigations and 22 who failed to prove residency.
According to Bishop, in the last few years, the school has also seen an increase in the number of overall cases needing to be checked out. This year, the RCOs investigated a total of 384 cases; in 2009-2010, it was 337; and for '08-'09, approximately 294.
"It's been a steady increase. Back in 2003, 323 cases were investigated, then it dropped in '04 to 209 and it has increased ever since," said Bishop, who attributes the up-tick to more families living in apartments than in homes.
"If they own a home and have a tax bill, that's an easy enrollment. There's very little verification that has to be done. Once we move to people who rent, there is landlord verification that's needed, as well as other things. And then we have people who are living with other relatives who are not their parent or guardian, or we have a parent or guardians living with other relatives."