With the school year underway teachers and administrators are working to get students situated into their classes, but have once again been faced with shuffling last-minute registrants. Perennially, according to District 91 Superintendent Lou Cavallo, as much as one-third of the student body isn’t on the district’s rolls at the start of the year.
At a school board meeting in mid-August – just 12 days before the start of school on Aug. 26 – Cavallo reported that only 703 students were registered. He estimated that some 300 additional children would be attending classes. Historically, Forest Park’s elementary and middle schools have seen a student body of about 1,000, but without knowing which buildings those kids will enter when the bell rings, Cavallo said it’s tough to allocate resources.
“I don’t know where some families are going to have their students attend until the last minute,” Cavallo said.
On the second day of classes the district’s attendance had climbed to more than 900 students, and new faces were still trickling in. For years, the public school district has adhered to a policy that caps class sizes at 20, which has required shuffling kids to various attendance areas. Cavallo and school board members expect the district’s overall enrollment to hold steady, if not decline, in the coming years, and will enforce attendance boundaries whenever possible. But with so many last-minute registrations it is inevitable that kids get shuffled around, said Cavallo.
A kindergarten class at Garfield Elementary, located at 543 Hannah Ave., had 29 students on the first day, said Cavallo. Several parents were upset to learn that their child would have to attend Grant-White Elementary, though it’s less than a mile away.
“Parents don’t like that,” Cavallo said of the shuffle.
The annual registration period for new and returning students was held Aug. 5 and 6, but it’s possible that additional registration drives or other changes will be made to prevent this influx of late arrivals. Cavallo said he expects to discuss some of those options with the board in September. Also on the table as part of the effort to get students signed up ahead of time are the district’s policies on class balancing, said Cavallo.