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Over the next five years enrollment within Forest Park’s five public schools could drop by more than 20 percent, perhaps leading to cutbacks in staffing levels.

A set of projections that take District 91 through the 2011-12 school year estimate that at least 13 percent fewer students will attend the K-8 district as compared to the upcoming 2007-08 school year. Two other models showed the student body dwindling in greater numbers over that time period with projected dips of 17 percent and 23 percent.

The most aggressive of the three estimates calls for 209 fewer students at the start of the 2011 school year than in 2007. Should the trend play out, which Superintendent Randolph Tinder said he has no reason to doubt, as many as 10 classrooms could be cut.

“The district will watch enrollment trends to make sure we’re not overstaffed,” Tinder said.

The projections were put together by a consulting firm in Rockford, Mich.

Tinder is retiring from his position with the district this summer and will not be part of the administrative team overseeing staff. However, Tinder suggested that as classroom space becomes available, the district may be able to provide more services to special education students and young children.

Lou Cavallo was hired as the new superintendent by the board of education in February and will assume the role in a few months. Though Cavallo is beginning to familiarize himself with Forest Park’s schools, he said he doesn’t yet have all the information to suggest how the decrease in enrollment will affect staffing or instruction.

However, Cavallo said he agreed with Tinder’s assessment that class sizes of roughly 20 students are most appropriate. Retaining teachers for classrooms of 14 or 15 kids may not be financially viable, Cavallo said, and is unlikely to have any “great benefit” to student performance. Ultimately, those decisions will depend on the programming though, Cavallo said.

The projections for the coming five years do not attempt to predict trends specific to any demographic. For example, there are no estimates as to what the ratio of black students to white students might be. The absence of that information makes it more difficult to project how enrollment trends might affect standardized test scores, Cavallo said.

The 2006 district report card released by the state recently, shows a significant achievement gap between Forest Park’s white and black students.

Forest Park has a far greater number of black students at more than 47 percent, compared to the state average of only 20 percent. Twenty-seven percent of District 91’s students are white and almost 13 percent are Hispanic.

In contrast, some 56 percent of Forest Park’s residents are white while only 31 percent are black. Roughly 8 percent of the village’s population is Hispanic, according to the 2000 U.S. Census data.