And now into the always interesting mix of students at District 97 comes a suddenly increasing number of Hispanic students. After a decade of just very small increases to a total of just 6 percent of the student population, the Hispanic enrollment has doubled in just two years to 13 percent.
That’s a real number and with it some unique challenges and opportunities for the Oak Park public elementary schools. Obviously not all students of Hispanic origin require added English language services. But there is a rising number and the district will have to provide those services.
The new teacher contract, signed just this summer, specifically and for the first time, addresses this growing demographic shift. The contract calls for the district administration to work with the Oak Park Teachers Association to make plans for appropriate staffing levels. The district is also in the midst of reviewing its current English language curriculum to make sure it measures up. The district will also begin looking for grant dollars to subsidize these costs.
This is the sort of proactive response to a new educational initiative that we’d expect from our public schools.
Watching the increasing number of Hispanic families in Austin, in Proviso, in Berwyn, the only surprise is that the upturn in Oak Park’s schools has been so long in coming.