The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Declining student trend continuing in Dist. U-46
By Seth Hancock
The trend of declining enrollment in School District U-46 has continued according to the district’s numbers from Sept. 29 of this year.
The numbers were presented to the Board of Education in November and showed that enrollment dropped by 557 students from 38,571 in 2018 to 38,014 in 2019.
Dating back to 2014 when the district had 40,487 students according to the presentation, student population has dropped by 350 students in 2015, 426 in 2016, 506 in 2017 and 634 in 2018.
“We would expect that we will continue to see a decline of at least 300 to 400 students per year for the next several years,” said Jeff King, deputy superintendent of operations.
The Fiscal Year 2020 budget projects a 9 percent decline in enrollment from this year to 2022-2023, an annual loss of 862.3 students on average, while spending is expected to rise 14 percent to $636.2 million. That budget did estimate a loss of 950 students this year.
Between FY2012 and FY2019, enrollment dropped 5.6 percent (2,293 fewer students) and spending increased by $128.1 million (29.8 percent) which is over $80 million faster than the rate of inflation according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator. From 2012 to the 2022-2023 school year, enrollment will have dropped 14.1 percent and spending will have risen 48 percent if the projections become reality.
Early childhood enrollment was the lone level where enrollment increased this year with an additional 21 students from 1,338 to 1,359. King said enrollment “continues to be fluid throughout the year” at the early childhood level.
Program enrollment, such as private placement and center house among others, saw enrollment decline by 46 students from 685 to 639.
Elementary population dropped by 487 students from 19,064 to 18,577 with decreases in 29 schools. Only one school saw an increase of over 40 students, Lincoln at 59, while four lost more than 40: Timber Trails (55), Hilltop (51), Century Oaks (47) and Ontarioville (44).
On a 10-year trend for elementary schools, seven have seen an increase in population with Otter Creek seeing the largest increase at 145 while 33 have seen a decline with Fox Meadow losing 296 for the largest drop. There are 14 sites that have lost over 100 students over the decade.
Middle school enrollment dropped by just four students, 5,904 to 5,900, with four schools seeing a decline in population. No school saw an increase or decrease in population by more than 40.
Eastview Middle School saw the largest drop by 38 students, and King said that site is expected to see the largest declines in the future at the middle school level.
High school enrollment dropped by 87 students from 12,265 to 12,178. South Elgin saw the largest increase at 62 additional students while Streamwood saw the largest decline of 113 students.
Ninth graders represent the largest number of U-46 students this year at 3,300. King noted the second-grade level, which has 2,520 students, and said: “That will have a pretty significant impact if our cohort size continues to stay around 2,500.”
In response to a question from board member Kate Thommes regarding the ninth-grade population being the largest, King said that’s “pretty typical that we see an increase at ninth grade, coming out of private school… and then that number will slide downwards, unfortunately, as they progress towards senior year.”
The current senior class of 2020 started with 3,294 freshmen in 2016-2017 and is now at 2,508, a loss of 786 students.
The vast majority of elementary classrooms are below staffing standards, meaning a lower student to teacher ratio, at 811 or 91 percent. There are 59 classrooms or 6 percent above staffing standards and 24 or 3 percent at staffing standards.
Also, the majority of elementary buildings are underutilized with 92.5 percent at 81 percent or lower utilization. Last year, King said “preferably you’d like to have a school somewhere around the 85 percent utilization.”
There are 18 elementary schools (45 percent) at the 66-81 percent utilization range, 17 (42 percent) at 50-65 percent utilization and two (5 percent) below 50 percent utilization. There are three schools (8 percent) at 82-97 percent utilization.
Regarding the enrollment trend downward, board member Melissa Owens asked: “There’s not anything on the horizon that suggests an uptick?”
King said there was not with the trend continuing, and he suggested issues from over a decade ago are the reason.
“Typically, what you would see is generation shifts in neighborhoods, and a lot of that slowed down with the economic cycle that we went through between 2008 and etcetera…. I think that slowed a lot of the churn in households down significantly at that point, so you see older couples staying in their household even though their children are gone and the houses are not turning over,” King said.
King also said birth rates saw a significant drop in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, and “that’s being clearly reflected in our cohort numbers now, and that still hasn’t changed…. We’ll stay on our current trend downward for a while yet.”
Sue Kerr, the board’s president, asked if there were any new developments that could contribute to growth to which King said the largest development in the area is just outside of the school district and within the St. Charles and Burlington school districts.
He said the largest planned development in U-46 is in South Elgin with some other possible developments in the “far west end” of the school district.