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District 65 enrollment surge has Latin flavor

Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board members got a first look Monday night at attendance figures for the current school year and found that an increase in Hispanic students is a prime reason for the attendance surge that has the board considering the possibility of building a new school to handle the influx.

Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board members got a first look Monday night at attendance figures for the current school year and found that an increase in Hispanic students is a prime reason for the attendance surge that has the board considering the possibility of building a new school to handle the influx.

The total number of students taught within the district this year is 7,006, or about 100 more than projected, according to Paul Brinson, chief information officer for the district. This compares with 6,815 last year and 6,503 in the 2007-08 year. That’s an increase of about 8 percent in the last three years.

In the last year alone, the number of Hispanic students increased by 19 percent in the middle schools and a whopping 27 percent in kindergarten through the fifth grade.

By comparison, the number of white students increased by 2 percent in the middle schools and 3 percent in the elementary schools, while the number of black students decreased by 7 percent in the middle schools and 8 percent at the elementary level.

The overall ethnic distribution of students for the current year is 42 percent white, 27 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian, and 6 percent multi-racial.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy told the board that, while challenging, the enrollment increase represented a compliment to the district.

Board member Bonnie Lockhart said the figures dispel the widely held assumption that a number of district residents were pulling their children out of district schools and placing them in private institutions. “People are moving to Evanston because of the schools,” she declared. “This is a tribute to the district and to the administration.” Brinson added that the district needs to be vigilant about people moving out of the district but keeping their children enrolled in district schools.

Regarding a proposed new school to help ease the impact of the enrollment increase, the board added Kim Weaver to the committee known as the Ad Hoc Referendum-New School Committee that is charged with determining the feasibility of building a new school in the district, based on “space needs and community interest and support.”

She joins fellow board members Jerome Summers and Katie Bailey on what is ultimately expected to be an 11-member panel that includes parents, teachers, and other community members.

A new school requires a referendum by the voters of the district. Earlier the board made the determination that it was too late to request a referendum for the April 2011 school board election and directed that the ad hoc committee finish its work in time to put the issue on the ballot, if necessary, at the next election, which would be in 2012. 

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 stations and business-oriented magazines.

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