With over a month of learning already in the books for the children and staff, Forest Park School District 91 is seeing a strong start, with steady enrollment and fiscal health.

The district is already reporting a slight enrollment increase compared to the same time last school year. When the district had its last enrollment projection done a few years back, they were predicted to have roughly 752 students for the 2015-2016 school year. At the district’s school board meeting on Sept. 22, Superintendent Louis Cavallo reported that current total K-8 enrollment was 766, a seven-student jump from just the previous week.

“Our enrollment over the last few years has been about what we thought it would be, based on the demographic company (IMF),” he said.

Cavallo added that, despite previous media reports that enrollment is on the decline [D91’s intermediate enrollment shrinks, Forest Park Review, Aug. 19], the opposite is true overall. He credits some of the enrollment increases to the revamping of the district’s preschool program.

“Enrollment is actually increasing slightly,” he said. “When we decided to move from junior kindergarten, which had very low enrollment, to the preschool program and not charge for it, one of our aspirations was that it would not only enhance our education enough to entice people to come to Forest Park, but then they would stay. It will take us a few years to know for sure the impact.”

In his report to the board, Cavallo also mentioned that Forest Park’s limited space for new housing constructions and historically high percentage of rental properties also makes population predictions and actual enrollment a bit tricky to gauge.

“We do have to keep in mind that the housing market in Forest Park is a little unique,” he said. “With a little over half of the town as rental properties, we will always have a high mobility rate.”

School board President Mary Win Connor echoed those observations, saying Forest Park is not always fast to gain newer residents with young children.

“One of the other unusual things about Forest Park that I haven’t seen in many other towns is that our seniors don’t move out of their homes into condos,” she said. “They essentially leave their house ‘feet first’ and pass it on to their children to sell. We don’t have a lot of housing opening up as you would in another neighborhood where empty-nesters may move.”

Budget numbers

On the district’s financial front, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Edward Brophy said that just as with fiscal year 2015, fiscal year 2016 will continue to home in on 21st-century learning experiences that enhance the classroom experience.

“Most important are the updates to instructional resources and materials for reading and mathematics that are specifically aligned to the Common Core state standards,” Brophy said.

In fiscal year 2015, D91’s revenue estimated at $15,810,265, with actual revenue reaching $16,906,207. Expenditures were budgeted at $21,999,800 and actual expenditures came out to $21,007,043. Over $3.9 million in expenditures can be attributed to the renovation project at Betsy Ross.

For fiscal year 2016, Brophy said the revenue budget is $16,181,750 and the budgeted expenditures amount to $20,054,538, which includes over $1.2 million for one-time outlier expenditures. Eighty-nine percent of the revenue budget comes from local sources, 8 percent from the state, and 3 percent federally.

During the last fiscal year, the district was able to complete its anticipated one-to-one technology initiative to provide Google tablets for kindergarteners and Google Chromebooks for first- and second-graders at Betsy Ross and Garfield Elementary Schools. 

This fiscal year, Brophy said the annual budget prioritizes the purchasing of new school buses, new student meal programs and facility improvements for all five Forest Park schools.

Additionally, he said, the district is remaining mindful of the state’s unfortunate ongoing budget crisis.

“We, as with all school districts in Illinois, will continue to monitor the present and future discussions that occur in Springfield on any possible new formula for funding education in the state of Illinois,” he added.