U-46 seeing enrollment declines in early grades
Elgin schools' officials might soon have to address the underutilization of some school buildings, while dealing with crowding at others, in the face of declining enrollment.
Enrollment in the state's second-largest school district declined by 506 students -- 39,711 in September 2016 compared to 39,205 on Sept. 29 this year.
Declining enrollment has been a trend over the past several years. Factoring in underutilization of buildings and the prospect of losing students to a planned Elgin charter school, Elgin Area School District U-46 officials have said they might be forced to consider closing elementary schools. Officials say they will discuss building use at a future school board meeting.
Declines largely were seen in the elementary grades. Total enrollment among District U-46's 40 elementary schools fell by 503 students -- 526 including special education students. Some of the larger decreases among elementary schools are at Century Oaks and Creekside in Elgin, Glenbrook in Streamwood, Laurel Hill in Hanover Park and Lincoln in Hoffman Estates, officials said.
Eleven elementary schools had enrollment gains. The largest is at Otter Creek in Elgin with 47 students, mostly due to the dual language program, which draws students from Fox Meadow in neighboring South Elgin.
Two elementary schools -- Wayne and Prairieview in Bartlett -- have enrollments of less than 50 percent of their operating capacity.
"It's primarily the aging of the population," Chief Operations Officer Jeff King said. "Most of what we are seeing is because of the declining birthrates in the state of Illinois. Our smallest group is K-2 … it will be a while before some of that declining trend hits the middle schools."
A total of 2,582 students are enrolled in the district's full-day kindergarten program -- down from 2,715 last year.
Most of the underutilized elementary schools are in the northeast part of the district -- Wayne, Prairieview, Spring Trail in Carol Stream, and Hawk Hollow and Centennial in Bartlett.
Twelve elementary schools operate at 50 percent to 65 percent of their capacity, while 21 are in the 66 percent to 81 percent range. Only seven schools operate within 82 percent to 100 percent utilization, King said.
"We do need to look at, 'Are we being as efficient as we could be in using the space?'" he said. "We haven't had a conversation about it as of yet."
Crowding and the continued use of mobile classrooms is a concern at some elementary buildings, such as Otter Creek, which has a growing dual language program.
"We are in every nook and cranny in the building," King said. "We even use the teachers lounge for music because we don't have any space in the building. We've had to completely eliminate the preschool (there)."
It's the same situation at Huff in Elgin, where preschool was eliminated this year due to enrollment increases.
Class sizes also are a concern at the elementary levels -- the highest is 34 students in a classroom. Of 880 elementary classrooms, 44 have 30 to 34 students each.
Overall demographic trend data shows enrollment is expected to decline 2 percent yearly during the next three years.
Meanwhile, U-46's early childhood program enrollment increased by 33 students over last year. Enrollment at its eight middle schools rose by 24 students, including special education. At the five high schools, overall enrollment is down 50 students; ninth grade is the largest segment with 3,342 students.