Rich Township High School District 227 enrollment continues to dip
By Sarah Zylstra Correspondent November 21, 2012 4:38PM
A sign points the way to the new home of Southland College Prep, a south suburban charter high school that opened in fall 2010 and is located at 4601 Sauk Trail Road, Richton Park.
2008: 4,216 students
2009: 4,132 students
2010: 4,120 students
2011: 4,056 students (first year of charter school)
2012: 3,915 students
2013: 3,690 students
Source: District 227 administration
Updated: December 24, 2012 7:02AM
Southland College Prep Charter High School is to blame for declining enrollment at the three Rich Township District 227 high schools, Assistant Supt. Ilandus Hampton told the District 227 board this week.
Enrollment has dropped to 3,690 students this school year, down steadily from a peak of 4,216 in 2008.
“Next year you’ll see enrollment go down slightly and then you’ll see it stagnate,” Hampton said. “Our projection is after next school year, after another 125 students attend the charter school, enrollment will decrease slightly and then start to tail off.”
The charter school in Richton Park is adding one grade of 125 students per year, and will reach full capacity of 500 students next year.
After that, District 227’s numbers should stabilize, Hampton said.
While the numbers have been dipping since before the charter school opened, they weren’t changing by much, he said.
Board member Cheryl Coleman said she challenged enrollment numbers last year.
“I was told — reassured — that we were going to come in over 4,000 students,” she said. “That’s a 310-student swing to the negative.”
While enrollment for this year was up to more than 4,000 students, that doesn’t tell the whole story, Supt. Donna Leak said.
“You have to look at how many kids actually show up,” she said. “So that’s the difference.”
Coleman asked Hampton about the possibility of closing a campus if the numbers continue to decline, noting she included the administration building as one of the campuses.
The numbers aren’t projected to ever dip low enough to consider doing so, Hampton responded.
“We have small campuses,” he said. “The maximum for Rich South (in Richton Park) and Rich East (in Park Forest) is about 1,300. They’re still at about 85 percent to 90 percent capacity.”
The maximum for the Rich Central campus in Olympia Fields is 1,600, which is also operating between 85 percent and 90 percent capacity, he said.
During the budget-cutting process last year, the board and community looked at ways to cut spending so they wouldn’t have to close a school, board President Betty Owens said.
“We would explore many options,” she said. “We could redistrict. There are all kinds of things we could do to resolve a situation if in fact that situation were to arise.”
The best option would be to become a better school district, board member David Morgan said.
“We want to move on, and get District 227 up to a high-performing district, to attract 1,000 people back,” he said.
The district does have good things to offer students, but often doesn’t get credit for them, board member Emmanuel Imoukhuede said.
“These are things we need to talk about,” he said. “So for those who feel our district is not doing anything to help students achieve, I don’t think that’s fair. We are working in the right direction. We are a district that does not beat our drums too hard.”