Enrollment is up in Forest Park’s elementary and middle schools – by a little more than a classroom full of kids. Where a year ago the schools enrolled 907 children, this fall there are 937 kids spread among the four elementary and one middle school.
After a decade of gradual enrollment declines in District 91, it is gratifying to see the numbers rise. Why the number is up is certainly a complex mix of demographics, economics and educational issues. After following education for decades, we know there is both an art and a science to interpreting, and over-interpreting, enrollment trends.
But a few thoughts: In a down economy, public schools sometimes pick-up students who might have otherwise gone to tuition-funded private schools. When public schools are good, and Forest Park’s elementary schools are good and getting better, they are an attractive option for parents who might otherwise consider a parochial school.
At a school board meeting last week, Superintendent Lou Cavallo also suggested that the bold changeover last year from a neighborhood school model to a grade-level center approach also seems to have had a positive impact on enrollment. While there was a small but strong pocket of opposition to the realignment of the elementary schools, the switch was well-handled and, ultimately well-received as an educational innovation.
We are fans of the current school administration and the school board which put it in place. There is an educational ambition, an active openness to innovation that was badly lacking in our local schools for many, many years. The schools were good enough and that seemed to have been good enough for most people. It wasn’t good enough.
So we choose to see the rise in enrollment this fall as a vote of confidence in aiming higher, expecting more and harvesting the results.