Forest Park Elementary District 91 will drop to one classroom each for fourth and fifth grade at Grant-White School, according to enrollment numbers presented to the school board. They will continue to have two third-grade classes. The district limits class size to around 20 students. 

“Two teachers resigned from Grant-White to pursue administrative positions in other districts and they were not replaced,” confirmed Superintendent Lou Cavallo in an email.

The intermediate north-side school, located at 147 Circle Ave., serves grades 3-5. Currently, 83 students are registered for the 2015-16 school year, Cavallo said, although typically some students straggle in after Labor Day. In spring 2014, the district reported 97 students at Grant-White. Grant-White is located at 147 Circle Avenue.

Enrollment for intermediate grades also dropped at Field-Stevenson School on the south side of Forest Park. Projected enrollment was 134, down from 162 in spring, 2014. 

Board President Mary Win Connor said the improved housing market this spring may have contributed to some families with older children moving away from Forest Park to avoid Proviso Township High School District 209.

“Parents I’ve talked to have said, ‘I have to do this before they hit freshman year in high school, and I don’t want to take any chances on the market tanking again,” Connor recalled.

D91 transitioned to a “Grade Level Center” model in 2010, which broke up the four K-5 elementary schools into two each of primary (K-2) and intermediate (3-5) levels.

Facing falling enrollment, the board determined closing a school was not an option because classrooms were not large enough to squeeze in extra children. 

“This is another reason grade level centers work well,” said Connor. “We haven’t had to let any teachers go because of dropping enrollment.” The district adapts to student enrollment numbers by moving staff around.

In 2012, consultants told the district that enrollment was falling all over Cook County. Information Management Systems of Rockford, Michigan, predicted that by 2017-18, D91 would have 677 students. According to the U.S. Census, Forest Park lost 25 percent of its children under age 14 between 2000 and 2010.

The district only reports numbers of kindergarten through eighth-grade students to the state board of ed. D91 has seen a bump in younger students, especially after offering tuition-free preschool, providing school supplies and eliminating all school fees. All of the slots in no-tuition preschool have been filled since it was first offered in 2014. It remains to be seen if those students will continue to attend the district in later grades. 

The number of enrolled children in the public school districts has not dropped as sharply in neighboring towns of Berwyn and Oak Park. According to the Illinois Report Card, between 2012 and 2014, enrollment in Berwyn’s two school districts stayed about the same with an increase of 38 students — from 7,352 to 7,390 — or about .5 percent. Oak Park’s enrollment increased by 297 students, from 5,625 in 2012 to 5,922 in 2014, or 5 percent.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...