School District 65 presented its Opening School Report for 2019-2020 as part of the packet of materials for the Dec. 16 School Board meeting. Enrollment in K-8th grades has declined for the second straight year.                                                                                  

Enrollment: The report reflects that 7,325 students are enrolled in the K-8 grade levels at District 65, a decline of 97 students from last year. In addition, 322 children attend an early childhood education program at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, the same as last year. Since 2006, the enrollment has grown by 1,227 students in the K-8 grade levels.

Kindergarten Enrollment: 768 students are enrolled in kindergarten, 6 more than last year; 91% of those students had pre-K experience in home day care, a daycare center, pre-school, or Head Start.

Ethnic Breakdown of the K-8 Enrollment: 43% of the K-8 students are white, 22% black, 20% Hispanic, 9% multi-racial, and 5% Asian. In the last 16 years there has been a drop in the percentage of black students enrolled in grades K-8 at District 65, from 45% in 2000 to 22% in 2019; a part of this drop may be due to a multi-racial category that was introduced in 2005. During the same period, the percentage of Hispanic students attending District 65 has increased from 8% in 2000 to 20% in 2016. The above chart shows the trends.

The ethnic breakdown of the incoming kindergarten class is 43% white, 22% black, 20% Hispanic, 9% multi-racial, and 5% Asian.

Ethnicity by School: In accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Seattle School District case, the District no longer uses race as a factor in admitting students to the magnet schools or in granting permissive transfers. This year only one school, Orrington Elementary School, has a racial group that exceeds 60% of the student body at the school. Orrington is 62% white.

Low Income: 2,685 students, or 36% of K-8 students, are identified as low-income, measured by those who qualify for free- or reduced-fee lunch. This is the same as last year. Of those, 81%, or 2,327students, qualified for the free-lunch program, indicating a higher level of poverty. The percentages of low-income students at the District’s schools range from a high of 62% at Oakton to a low of 18% at both Orrington and Willard.

Homeless Students: The report estimates there are a total of 178 students from households who are classified as homeless, 21 less than last year. This is up from 31 students in 2004-05.

Special Education: 963 students ages 3-14, or 13% of all students, are in special education programs. Of those, 36% are black, 25% white, 28% Hispanic, 7% multi-racial, and 3% Asian. An additional 47 of special education students are placed in programs outside the District.

ELL/TWI: 1,109 students are English Language Learners (ELL). Of these, 443 are enrolled in a Two-Way Immersion (TWI) program, 237 are in a transitional bilingual program, 324 are enrolled in English as a Second Language program, and 101 have waived services. There are a total of 40 TWI classrooms at six different schools: Dawes, Dewey, Oakton, Washington, Willard, and Bessie Rhodes.

ACC: 88 students are enrolled in the African-Centered Curriculum (ACC) program at Oakton School: 10 in kindergarten, 17 in first grade, 15 in second grade, 17 in third grade, 15 in fourth grade, and 14 in fifth grade.

District 65 Family Center: The number of children receiving direct services at the Family Center is 123, down from 314 three years ago.

Class Sizes: The average class sizes for general education classes at the K-5 grade levels are as follows: kindergarten – 19.0 students; first grade – 20.5 students; second grade – 19.4 students; third grade – 20.0 students; fourth grade – 19.5 students; and fifth grade – 21.7 students.

There is a disparity in the average size of general education classes at the schools, ranging from a low of 11.5 students in 4th grade at Oakton to a high of 26.0 students in fourth grade at Washington.

Busing: 3,299 students are “eligible” to take the bus because of distance, safety or a program placement. Of these, 29% are black, 25% are white, 31% Hispanic, 7% Asian, and 8% multi-racial. The report does not reflect the number of students who actually take the bus. These numbers do not include special education students.

The School Board members did not discuss the report.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...