For the second year in a row, Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School has seen fewer students enter its doors as enrollment has dropped below 800 for the first time in the school's brief three-year history. Julian's numbers, meanwhile, are rising.
A total of 784 students are officially enrolled at Brooks in 2005-06, a decline of 49 students from the previous year. Brooks' total enrollment last year was 833 students.
After static enrollment from 2002-03 through 2003-04, which saw Brooks' numbers at 853 and 854 respectively, Brooks' enrollment has slumped the last two years.
The district expected lower enrollment this year for Brooks, 325 S. Kenilworth Ave., based on enrollment projections from its four feeder schools, said District 97 Supt. Constance Collins.
Percy Julian Middle School, by contrast, saw an increase in students in '05-'06. Enrollment increased to 849 students this year, a jump of 17 students over last year.
Brooks and Julian, 416 S. Ridgeland Ave., both opened in 2002-03 as middle schools, accepting sixth, seventh and eighth grade classes. Enrollment had remained above 800 for the two schools until Brooks dipped below this year. In Julian's first year, enrollment topped out close to 900.
Collins said elementary schools attendance was down in some instances, which has had an impact on Brooks' enrollment. She doesn't think the enrollment numbers indicate a consistent decline for Brooks.
"I wouldn't say that it's a trend," said Collins, "but it is something that we've noticed this year, and we'll continue to watch it."
Transfers between Brooks and Julian this year don't explain the disparity either. Fifty-six students transferred from Julian to Brooks in '05-'06. Fifty Brooks students transferred to Julian this year.
The district projects an increase in Brooks' enrollment next year, said Dist. 97 Board of Education President Carolyn Newberry Schwartz.
"We're looking at next year's numbers for the sixth grade class at Brooks," she said. "Next year's class at Brooks will be larger than this year. I don't know by how much, but it's projected to be slightly larger than this year's."
Brooks in previous years has had issues with discipline and morale. Collins, who's in her first year as superintendent, would not speculate on the previous climate or whether it negatively impacted current enrollment.
"I would not feel comfortable commenting on past behavior," she said. "I will say that Brooks is off to a good start. The feedback I've gotten this year from the community has been positive."
"I don't think we have enough information to comment on that one way or the other," said Schwartz of Brooks' past concerns. "It's something we've worked on, but it wouldn't indicate that that was a concern between the two schools."
The schools graduated their first three-year classes in June 2005. Both have similar curriculum and slightly different electives. The principals at Brooks and Julian were unavailable for comment.
Feeder schools: Irving, Longfellow, Beye, Mann
Feeder schools: Hatch, Whittier, Holmes, Lincoln
Enrollment data provided by Dist. 97 Human Resources Department.