With a cost per student nearing $15,000 annually and its own enrollment gradually rising, Oak Park and River Forest High School — and the taxpayers who support it — can ill afford to allow students from surrounding communities to gain access to its classrooms.

Nathaniel Rouse, OPRF principal, recently gave the school board a detailed analysis of the school’s intensifying efforts to screen out students who do not live, or no longer live, locally. In the current school year alone, the number of “questionable cases” leapt from 800 to 1,100. 

Is that a stunning jump in the number of families working to circumvent residency laws or a reflection of the school’s increasingly sophisticated effort to sort these families out of the mix? A combination perhaps.

Not surprisingly, given the strong academics and safety offered by OPRF, the greatest number of students attempting to game the residency rules are coming from neighboring communities where public high school education is suspect. Those include Austin, Maywood, Forest Park, Berwyn and Bellwood. Until those school districts make notable improvements to the education they offer, OPRF will need to keep improving its screening.

In the end, the total number of students turned away from OPRF this school year hit a high at 245 young people. That’s up 60 students from last year. Take a longer view and the problem clearly has ramped up over five years. 

We are not here to judge parents desperate to get their children into a better school. But we appreciate the concerted effort at OPRF to protect local taxpayers.

River Fores

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