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Local News

Will County public school enrollment sees 5-year decline

District officials cite recovering housing market, aging population

Enrollment in Will County area public schools is down for the fifth year in a row, with a dozen districts showing steady declines.

In a 2014-15 annual report by the Will County Regional Office of Education, the total enrollment for 29 school districts was down by 2.3 percent from 2011 and 1.2 percent from last year. Of those districts, 12, such as in Plainfield, Romeoville and the Lincoln-Way area, saw steady enrollment drops.

A few, such as Joliet Township High School District 204, showed an increase.

The enrollment figures are based on information from last year’s state fall housing report.

The amount of students a district receives plays a large role in the amount of revenue – especially state aid – it gets.

Shawn Walsh, Will County regional superintendent, said his office doesn’t know why enrollment has declined again countywide, but each individual district would know.

Some area school officials attribute the decreased enrollment to a housing market slowly crawling out of the Great Recession.

Plainfield 

Enrollment for Plainfield School District 202 peaked at 29,254 in 2010, spokesman Tom Hernandez said. But it has continued to drop annually and sits at 28,117 for the 2014-15 school year. 

Hernandez said the district went through a period of “incredible, breathtaking growth” throughout the 2000s as more people moved into the Chicago area suburbs.

But the housing market crashed in 2008, and now residential development slowly is recovering, he said. 

“What’s different now? The lending market. How banks are lending money to people. It’s not as easy. It’s a slower process, but people will still be attracted to Plainfield School District 202,” he said.

Hernandez said enrollment is mainly declining at the elementary level but is holding steady at the middle and high school level.

More children are growing up and moving to higher grades without new children to replace them at the pace of the pre-recession period, he said.

Since the recession, the district has made $45 million in cuts – mostly targeting salaries – to stay afloat, he said. 

Lincoln-Way 

Three of the five school districts in New Lenox, Frankfort and Mokena showed steady declines in the past five years. Frankfort School District 157-C and Manhattan School District 114 did not.

Enrollment at the high school district the students feed into – Lincoln-Way District 210 – also showed a five-year decrease. 

Lincoln-Way officials projected immense growth as early as 2005. Those projections were not met the following year, and enrollment continued to fall short annually even after two new schools were constructed to meet anticipated demand. 

Because of the significant drop in enrollment – along with multimillion-dollar budget deficits – district officials chose in August to shut down Lincoln-Way North High School to secure financial stability.

Increasing enrollment

Despite the overall decline, several school districts showed increasing enrollment, such as Joliet Township High School District 204, Manhattan School District 114, Fairmont School District 89, Rockdale School District 84 and Laraway School District 70-C.

Of all of them, Fairmont saw the biggest spike at 17.2 percent compared to last year.

Superintendent Sonya Whitaker said the school district has not seen a high enrollment increase but has seen slight increases mainly because 25 percent of students are in foster care.

The school district has a high student mobility rate, she said.

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2014-15 WILL COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL ENROLLMENT

Total: 114,122

Channahon School District 17: 1,282

Troy School District 30-C: 4,457

Homer School District 33-C: 3,673

Laraway School District 70-C: 433

Union School District 81: 114

Rockdale School District 84: 310

Joliet Public Schools District 86: 11,769

Chaney-Monge School District 88: 495

Richland School District 88-A: 937

Fairmont School District 89: 299

Taft School District 90: 343

Lockport School District 91: 640

Will County School District 92: 1,632

Manhattan School District 114: 1,374

New Lenox School District 122: 5,357

Frankfort School District 157-C: 2,483

Mokena School District 159: 1,623

Summit Hill School District 161: 3,281

Beecher School District 200-U: 1,046

Crete-Monee School District 201-U: 4,888

Plainfield School District 202: 28,117

Elwood School District 203: 381

Joliet High School District 204: 6,441

Lockport High School District 205: 3,670

Peotone School District 207-U: 1,606

Wilmington School District 209-U: 1,451

Lincoln-Way High School District 210: 7,126

Reed-Custer School District 255-U: 1,634

Valley View School District 365-U: 17,260

2013-14 WILL COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL ENROLLMENT

Total: 115,598

Channahon School District 17: 1,355

Troy School District 30-C: 4,507

Homer School District 33-C: 3,652

Laraway School District 70-C: 425

Union School District 81: 102

Rockdale School District 84: 288

Joliet Public Schools District 86: 11,977

Chaney-Monge School District 88: 450

Richland School District 88-A: 931

Fairmont School District 89: 255

Taft School District 90: 340

Lockport School District 91: 638

Will County School District 92: 1,697

Manhattan School District 114: 1,354

New Lenox School District 122: 5,402

Frankfort School District 157-C: 2,486

Mokena School District 159: 1,660

Summit Hill School District 161: 3,355

Beecher School District 200-U: 1,052

Crete-Monee School District 201-U: 4,993

Plainfield School District 202: 28,560

Elwood School District 203: 387

Joliet High School District 204: 6,274

Lockport High School District 205: 3,662

Peotone School District 207-U: 1,737

Wilmington School District 209-U: 1,487

Lincoln-Way High School District 210: 7,197

Reed-Custer School District 255-U: 1,674

Valley View School District 365-U: 17,704

Source: Will County Regional Office of Education

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