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The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board will discuss the administration’s five-year enrollment projections tonight, an exercise fraught with long-term implications that can be problematic if they’re far off the mark.

Last year, for example, the district predicted 153 fewer students than the 7,371 that actually showed up, and it took a bit of finagling to find a place for all of them without violating board-approved class size guidelines.

For next year, the projection is for an additional 86 students, but the remaining five years is anticipated to see enrollments increase by 27 or less each year.

The upshot is that the 2020-21 school year should see only about 156 more students, or 7,521, in grades kindergarten through eighth grade, than are enrolled in the current school year.

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In a memo to the board that serves as the raw material for tonight’s discussion, Lora Taira, director of research, accountability, and data, notes that “typically, an error rate of 2 percent for projecting district enrollments one year into the future, and an error rate of 5 to 6 percent for projecting enrollments five years into the future, is considered acceptable.”

 She cautions that the farther into the future projections are made, the greater is the error rate. It is particularly more difficult to project enrollments by school and grade, she adds.

Her staff has to consider the number of births in the area, construction and demolition of housing units, families moving in and out of existing homes, families opting for private schools or homeschooling, and changes in the economy.

Further complicating the task is when aging baby boomer couples, whose kids have long ago left the house, opt to downsize into one of the new multi-story apartment buildings being built in the area, while a young couple with three kids moves into the old homestead.

One of the factors that affected rapid growth at the Lincoln Elementary School a couple of years ago was families moving north from Chicago to take advantage of a school system that is perceived to be preferable to the one they left.

Faced with a potential overcrowding situation, the administration encouraged a number of families to move their kids into less-crowded schools in adjoining areas, or to transfer into one of the district’s magnet schools.

That resulted in 67 fewer students this year at Lincoln than projected at this time last year.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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