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First reported 9/10/2010 3:35 p.m.

While some people claimed that District 91fs reorganization of grade-levels would drive families out of the district, enrollment figures for fiscal year 2011 show the opposite. The schools have actually gained in enrollment from this point in time last year.

As of Sept. 9, there were 937 students enrolled at the four elementary schools and one middle school in Forest Park. At this same time last year, there were about 907 students enrolled.

Though enrollment numbers fluctuate frequently within the first few weeks of school, District 91 has experienced a general decline in enrollment over the past 10 years, with the exception of a minor peak in 2007, said Superintendent Lou Cavallo.

“Overall, it has gone down, down and down,” Cavallo said.

But the current tally for FY2011, he said, is higher than they had expected.

According to an independent research company that utilizes birth rates and housing data from the area to calculate enrollment estimates, the projected enrollment for this year was 855 students. In years past, the companyfs projections have usually been very close to the numbers they end up bringing in, Cavallo said.

One of the recent changes that could have impacted enrollment was the switch from neighborhood schools to “grade-level centers.” As of last year, Betsy Ross Elementary and Garfield Elementary serve kindergarten, first and second grade while Field-Stevenson Elementary and Grant-White Elementary house third to fifth grade.

“A lot of families found it more appealing,” Cavallo said.

The economic climate could have also played a role since people may be less inclined to move during a recession or send their kids to private schools, he added.

For the most part, though, enrollment tends to work in cycles.

“Itfs leveled off now and wefll start to see an increase,” said William Milnamow, principal at Betsy Ross Elementary. “Itfs becoming more stable and families are staying around longer.”

Betsy Ross recorded 165 students so far with class sizes between 17 and 20 kids.

“We are sitting real good right now,” Milnamow said. “Wefre just right where we want to be.”

Enrollment at the other schools include 182 at Garfield, 176 at Field-Stevenson, 132 at Grant-White and 282 at Forest Park Middle School.


Photos by J. GEIL/Staff Photographer

School finances are OK

District 91 reported at a Sept. 9 school board meeting that Forest Park schools are in a “healthy” financial position.

Reserve funds grew by approximately $3 million from last year, bringing the total to $20.4 million in reserve with about $16.9 million budgeted expenditures for fiscal year 2011, according to Edward Brophy, assistant superintendent of operations.

“We have healthy financial reserves to maintain and improve our current levels of programming and to complete the building renovations that are needed,” Brophy told the Review.

Building improvements at Garfield Elementary and Grant-White Elementary may be in the works but wouldnft begin until next summer, Brophy said.