Elmhurst District 205 can now decisively say that student enrollment this year has increased over last year, but only by 58 students districtwide.
The School Board on Tuesday heard a presentation on "sixth-day" enrollment figures, which is a head-count of students attending classes on the sixth day of school. This is considered an accurate accounting of the number of students enrolled in the district and is used as a basis for budgeting and staffing decisions.
One of the bigger increases in enrollment at the elementary level is at Madison Early Childhood Education Center, where 184 students are enrolled this year as compared to 155 last year. Students ages 3 to 5 who attend Madison have been developmentally screened and qualify for special education and individualized education programs (IEPs). Ninety percent of the 184 Madison students will transition into District 205 kindergarten classrooms.
The number of special education students entering District 205 schools has been increasing steadily for years, officials have said.
Conrad Fischer School is experiencing the largest increase, at 34 students. Field added 18 and Emerson, seven. Slight decreases are seen at Edison (-3), Hawthorne (-1) and Lincoln (-6).
Overall, the elementary classes increased by 76 students, from 3,736 in 2011-12 to 3,812 this year.
At the middle schools, Sandburg saw a decrease of 61 students, attributed to the graduation of a rather large eighth-grade class last year and a smaller incoming sixth-grade class this year. Bryan and Churchville saw increases of 11 and two students, respectively.
Overall middle school enrollment is down 48 students, from 1,862 last year to 1,814 this year.
York High School saw a bump of 30 students, from 2,632 last year to 2,662 this year.
Predictions on Target
In 2007, the School District hired demographer John Kasarda to project enrollment based on past district trends, and state and national trends. To this day, Kasarda's projections are right on target, Pruneau said, and the data should serve as a valid prediction of district enrollment for another few years.
"It's still a good predictor," he said. "I don't think we need to spend money on another study at this time."
Interestingly, board members said, it does not take into account any economic downtown. The fact that the numbers still hold true is a testament to District 205 and the Elmhurst community, board member Maria Hirsch said.
"If you think about what's happened in the last five years, there's been a significant downtown and we're still right on those numbers," she said. "That proves we have a very solid school district that is very attractive to families. We still have young children and young families moving in."
Still Plenty of Room
None of the school buildings are over capacity at this time. If enrollment continues to increase at the present rate at Conrad Fischer, however, "we'll have to take a look at that," Pruneau said. This is the second straight year of significant growth at Fischer, he said.
Madison still has two or three open classrooms.
York High School had a quoted capacity of 2,500 when it was re-built in 2003, board member Susan DeRonne said. But even with 2,660 students, York has plenty of classroom space, Pruneau said.
"High schools always have greater capacity than the architects design," he said.
School Board President Jim Collins asked if there is unfinished space on the third floor tower, "Or is that an urban legend?"
There is a "huge space"—the entire third floor at the front of the academic building—but it is "very raw and needs a great deal of work," Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Charles Johns said.
York is running short on lockers, however.
"We may have to look at installing additional lockers, or have kids share lockers," Pruneau said.
What About Class Size?
The enrollment increase by itself might not affect class sizes much, but coupled with staff reductions, some classrooms are over the district's formerly imposed cap on class sizes. In the wake of the , the board decided to go from caps in class sizes to targets in grades three through eight.
"If 27 is the cap, when I get one more student, I have to devote another staff member to create another section in that building for that one student," Pruneau said at the March 21 board meeting. "That's very difficult to sustain with these budget numbers. Rather than hard caps, we looked at targets. We may have 27 (in two classes) and one class of 28. We will staff that at three, rather than four teachers."
Staff will look at individual classes and evaluate the need to add another section based on the nature of the classroom and the particular challenges faced by teachers in certain classes.
Last year, no elementary class section exceeded 27.667 students, administrators said. With additional students this year, that could change.
At York, the plan is to create a "tighter ratio" of teachers to students, and some classes may be eliminated due to lower enrollment, officials said last spring.