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Joliet grade school administrators see enrollment trends changing

Published: Thursday, July 10, 2014 11:05 p.m. CDT

JOLIET – Enrollment trends that have led to some Joliet Grade School District 86 students moving to different schools this year could ease in the near future, school administrators say.

Families had been notified of changes in where children will attend school for 2014-15.

But enrollment pressures could ease in coming years because of a declining birth rate, administrators told school board members this week.

In a presentation to the school board’s Facilities Committee on Wednesday night, E. Wesley Russell, assistant superintendent for Business and Financial Services, said state data shows that births from 2008 to 2012 were down in Will County.

That means fewer students should be coming into elementary schools in the next few years, and numbers should go down at junior high schools in the future.

Will County births dropped from 9,601 in 2008 to 7,975 in 2012, according to Russell’s presentation. The school district projects that kindergarten enrollment should decline from 2013 enrollment of 1,359 students to an estimated 1,123 students by 2017.

Total enrollment in those elementary schools is expected to decline from 7,695 students estimated in 2014 to 6,985 students estimated in 2018, a decrease of 710 students. Junior high enrollment, however, is projected to increase by 316 students, from 3,335 to 3,651, in that same time period.

Russell cautioned, however, that the birth trends need to be examined more closely using actual enrollment numbers in the coming school year.

“This is good news. We see relief on the way,” Superintendent Charles Coleman said. “However, the ideal situation would be to build a new junior high school.”

The school board responded cautiously to the idea of a new building because of budget concerns.

Board President Jeffrey Pritz said that if a drop in kindergarten enrollment is expected then the district should continue to “work the boundaries” for the time period “until we hit an area that cannot be fixed.”

Meanwhile, the district has decided that new junior high school students from the Forest Park area would no longer enroll at Hufford and Gompers junior high schools. Instead, they will go to Washington Junior High School.

However, students who have siblings already enrolled at Gompers and Hufford will be able to attend those schools. About 53 students will be affected by this change, so two new teachers have been added to Washington to accommodate the growth in enrollment, Coleman said.

Also, preschool programs at Woodland have been relocated to Marshall Elementary School and Marycrest Early Childhood Center, which will open up two classrooms.

Also, about 50 bilingual students in the third, fourth and fifth grades who previously would have enrolled at Cunningham Elementary School will instead attend Thigpen Elementary School.

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