Kindergarten through eighth grade enrollment in Evanston/Skokie District 65 schools rose slightly this year after a decade of declines, but the number of black students enrolled fell.
Enrollment in those grades totaled 6,110 this fall compared to 6,098 a year ago. Those numbers exclude students enrolled in special needs programs at the Park and Rice schools and students in the early childhood program at the Hill Education Center.
District Information Services Director Paul Brinson said enrollment has declined 11 percent over the past decade. "There’s a myth that it’s white students leaving the district, but in fact that doesn’t seem to be the case," Mr. Brinson said.
The racial composition of the student body has shifted over the past three years, with the number of K-8 students identifying themselves as black declining from 39.1 percent to 33.5 percent of the total.
About half of the shift may be the result of an increase in the number of children identified as multi-racial. That number has gone from just 0.4 percent in 2005-06 to 3.5 percent this year.
The percentage of white students edged up from 42 percent to 42.8 percent during that period, the percentage of Hispanic children increased from 13.7 percent to 14.7 percent, the percentage of Asian children rose from 4.7 percent to 5.2 percent and the percentage of Native Americans increased from 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent.
Mr. Brinson said the district’s effort to tighten residency tests for enrollment may also have turned away proportionately more black students than whites.
Board member Jerome Summers said he believes rising housing costs may also be driving an increasing number of black families from Evanston.
Mr. Brinson also noted that a 2006 survey-based population estimate for Evanston by the Census Bureau indicates Evanston’s overall population may be 16.7 percent black now, compared to 22.5 percent black at the time of the 2000 census. However, the new survey has a substantial margin of error, and it also shows an increase in the number of people who classify themselves as multi-racial.
(Lindsay Wickman also contributed reporting for this story.)
Much more information on District 65’s enrollment levels can be found in the opening of school reports that are contained in school board meeting packets on the district’s web site: