The Evanston/Skokie elementary school system is expected to have fewer and fewer students over the next five years.

Sarita Smith, District 65’s Manager of Student Assignments, told a virtual school board meeting that projections show a “continual decrease” over the five year period.

With 7112 students this fall, in kindergarten through eighth grade, District 65 is already 227 students (three percent) below projections. The largest decrease is in kindergarten, 135 students (17 percent) fewer than expected. Smith said many kindergarten parents are keeping their students in pre-K for another year, have decided to home school, or are enrolling their children in smaller private schools.

Smith is predicting many of those students will return to District 65 once the school goes back to in-person classes, now scheduled for Nov. 16 if coronavirus conditions permit.

Smith said the district “can’t deny the impact that COVID-19 had” on kindergarten enrollment and early withdrawals from the district this year.” In 2019-2020, Smith said 400 students withdrew during the entire year. This year, 315 withdrew before school even started.

Smith said 2020 Census data, which should be available next spring, will give a better idea on changes in local population, and how best to plan long-term for the size of the district.

The board also unanimously passed the $140 million Fiscal 2021 budget, with a 4% increase in spending over Fiscal 2020.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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