Enrollment at Oak Park’s two public middle schools is the highest its been in recent years.
The student population at Julian, 416 S. Ridgeland, totals 935 kids. At Brooks, 325 S. Kenilworth, total enrollment tops 884. Overall enrollment in the district continues to trend upward. The total student population in District 97 is currently just over 5,800 students, according to enrollment data from the district. There are about 160 more students enrolled this year compared to the 2011-2012 school year.
A big part of the increased enrollment is tied to the full-day kindergarten program the district rolled out in 2009. The program was piloted at a few schools the previous year before expanding district-wide. Since 2008, student enrollment has gone from 5,228 to 5,802 students this current school year. Between 1999 and 2007, enrollment hovered around 5,000 students.
District officials expected enrollment to continue to increase steadily in the next decade. The district estimates an increase of about 600 students in the next five years. The middle schools are expected to experience the most growth as those kindergartners are likely to remain in the district and move up in grades.
In spite of the space challenges, the full-day program has been popular with families and financially-beneficial to the district. The program costs a little over $3 million to run but nets nearly $5 million in additional state aid to the district, another plus cited by D97 officials in expanding the program.
All-day kindergarten was a longtime goal of the district. When the two new middle schools were built in 2000, sixth graders were moved with the idea being that the freed up space at the eight elementary schools could accommodate additional kindergarteners. D97 had a half-day program — with the exception of Whittier which already had a full-day, mixed level program — before going to the full-day model.
The district has already experienced space issues at some schools. Those issues will continue among all the schools, explained Joanne W. Schochat, D97’s assistant superintendent for human resources.
The district’s personnel and student data report is released annually each October.
Brooks added 22 students in the last year; Julian saw 64 additional students this year. Four of the elementary schools experienced changes in student population of plus-or-minus 10 students. The other schools saw slightly larger shifts. Holmes and Irving, for instance, experienced an increase in 28 and 35 students, respectively. Irving’s total enrollment this year is 490, while Holmes’ enrollment totals 520.
Meanwhile, Lincoln and Longfellow saw their enrollment drop by 25 and 17 students, respectively, from the previous school year. Longfellow currently has 664 students and Lincoln 596.
Prior to this year, Lincoln had seen its population swell to the point where additional classroom space was needed. Last summer, five classrooms were added, including the construction of a second-floor. The elementary schools also continue to add kindergarten sections. Holmes added a fifth classroom and hired a kindergarten teacher in late September.