The size of this year’s entering class at Evanston Township High School, about 860 students, according to the district, represents a significant decrease from the incoming class last fall.

Last year, 2021-22, the school profile for ETHS showed 1,007 freshmen. The 860 this year, if the numbers stand, will be a surprisingly large 15% reduction.

One large caveat: Last fall’s numbers are from the official count in late September, so it’s possible the current freshman class will grow between now and the official count in a month.

Assuming the decrease, or something close to it, remains, the question is why?

At this point, pending a study, anything is just speculation. However, one possibility is that the years-long enrollment decline at School District 65, the feeder district for ETHS, has finally caught up with the high school.

It’s also possible that 1,007 was, for whatever reason, unusually high and things are getting back to normal. The year before the freshman class was around 900.

Whatever the reasons behind all of this, there are 860 youngsters still joining the Wildkit family. Freshman orientation began Monday and classes start next Monday.

Middle school friends Zen Huzar and Nate Gustafson, both 14, went through orientation together.

“I’m excited and a little bit nervous,” said Zen.

“I’m hopeful of a better year than last year,” he added. Both Zen and Nate attended Haven Middle School.

Nate said he hopes to “Make new friends and do well in school and sports.”

School pals Nate Gustafson (L) and Zen Huzar following ETHS freshman orientation on Monday.

Both boys want to be on the football team this fall, Zen as a tight end and Nate as a wide receiver.

Zen’s mother, Kristin Huzar, said the ETHS orientation was “thought out and well organized.”

Huzar said she is also “very excited about Dr. Campbell being the new superintendent.”

And, in a sense, this is also a freshman year for Campbell, and for principal Taya Kinzie. Both are starting their first year in new positions.

While both have been at ETHS for some time, Campbell is now superintendent, taking over for Eric Witherspoon, who retired.

And Kinzie moved up from another administrative position to take Campbell’s old job as principal.

In a website message to the community, Campbell said that as school begins, “We are focusing on how to heal through the challenges of the pandemic and ongoing challenges we face as a nation.”

Campbell said the past couple of years have been tough, “yet we are resilient.”

Both Campbell, and Kinzie in her website message, stressed the importance of safety, both physical and emotional.

Kinzie outlined five priorities for 2022-23: healing together in solidarity, giving and receiving care and respect, setting expectations for success, continuing to move forward with restorative practices, and enhancing school safety.

Certainly incoming freshmen would agree with that five-point plan, along with what Campbell said: “I am looking forward to a great school year!”

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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5 Comments

  1. During Covid, parents had the benefit of transparency into their kid’s education and curriculum for the first time. Sunshine was not the best disinfectant.

    Moreover, scores of parents were rightfully angered by teacher’s unions that opportunistically put their members before the needs of the children. When schools went to hybrid (Zoom) learning models, it disproportionately affected BIPOC families and those with less economic means. Not to mention the quality of education suffered and our children lost a couple of years of education that they will never get back.

    Where did these families go?
    While ETHS was in lockdown, Loyola maintained its daily in-class schedule, and …

    Catholic school enrollment increased for the first time in more than 20 years…

    https://www.manhattan-institute.org/catholic-school-enrollment-boomed-during-covid
    No doubt buoyed by the work Catholic teachers and leaders did to center the urgent educational needs of children in their response to the pandemic, the 2022 NCEA enrollment results reveal a historic 3.8% nationwide enrollment increase for all Catholic elementary and secondary schools—“the first increase in two decades and the largest recorded increase by NCEA.”

    I am an atheist and have no dog in this hunt. But if you wish to pretend that families are not simply voting with their feet then you are simply ignoring the facts.

  2. Anecdotally, as both an atheist and parent with a child at Oakton elementary , we will be pulling our child from this school system and sending him to Catholic school next year if things don’t improve.

  3. I completely understand but just can not get with catholic teachings. I was made to go to catholic school, did not understand the hypocrisy from parish members and my own family. After an almost 20 year friendship with someone who became a 65 educator, we are no longer friends.I expressed my concerns about the demands of the union members and at the very least was hoping she would see the other side.. she called me a hater of working women. WOW! I am a retired union member, collecting a pension and benefits. BUT my pension is not a public pension it is from Chicago Laborers Union i.e. private. The dollar amount I earned at the end of 25 years of working, is the dollar amount I will alway get NO COLA every year or any year. If my pension fund becomes insoluble the public is not on the hook to pay me a penny. When in the private sector we get paid hour for hour, not one paid holiday and no seniority or vesting. You either come to the job and do a good job or your butt will be sitting at home. Given the amount of taxes a family pays in Evanston, our school system should be outstanding. You wold not get me to raise a family here and have to pay for private education. Again, I am an atheist, have no children and a proud retired union member. Evanston is just dropping the ball on its brick and mortar residence on so many issues.

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