With enrollment continuing to drop in Evanston/Skokie School District 65, officials say one apparent reason is that parents, especially at certain schools, are not enrolling their youngsters in District 65 kindergarten.
In a report to the Board of Education, Sarita Smith, the district’s manager of student assignments, says that as of last October, District 65 had 6,200 students in grades K-8, a 4.6% drop from the year before.
The report says only 597 kindergarteners enrolled, a 5.8% decline from the year before.
While kindergarten enrollment fell below projections districtwide, Smith’s says Orrington, Kingsley, Lincolnwood, Washington, and Willard “have much lower kindergarten enrollments than they have had in the past few years.”
Most of those schools are on the north side of Evanston, and Smith says, “there are assumptions that many of these families are opting for private school.”
Not only is kindergarten enrollment lower than expected, but, the report notes than many kids in other grades who left for private school, religious school, or homeschooling during the pandemic have not come back.
Many private and parochial schools came back in-person earlier than did the public schools during the first year of COVID-19.
Smith’s report says “we have not seen a recovery from students that left or never began school in D65 since the pandemic.”
Other factors influencing the multi-year downward trend that the report cites include residential construction/demolition, declining birth rates, family mobility and changes in the economy.
Many public school systems around the nation are also seeing declines, for similar reasons.
Axios, citing federal data, says public schools across the nation lost more than one million students — or nearly 3% of total enrollment– from 2019 to 2020, and declines are expected to continue through the decade.
WTTW reported over the weekend that the Chicago Public Schools lost nearly 10% per cent of its students between 2019 and 2022. District 65 lost 16% of its students during that time period.
And District 65 says it is seeing “an increase in students transferring in from Chicago.”
The District is also seeing more students with Individualized Education Programs (IEP). Such special education students require more services, which costs the district more money.
Long-term, District 65 expects declining enrollment to continue, which likely means tough decisions on staffing, maintenance, and possibly closing buildings.
The report is on the agenda for discussion at Tuesday’s Curriculum and Policy Committee meeting.