H-F High enrollment heading down? Maybe not

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H-F High enrollment heading down? Maybe not

August 09, 2021 - 22:56
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An enrollment study shows Homewood-Flossmoor High School is likely to record a student decrease from its current 2,964 students, but several school board members questioned that finding.

While enrollment is nowhere near the 4,300 students of the early 1970s, the District 233 Planning Committee didn’t want to believe enrollments would take a serious drop when home sales have been so high.

During a recent District 233 School Board Planning Committee meeting, Business Manager Lawrence Cook told committee members that a study was done to update the 2007 numbers on file. A professor from North Carolina University, who did the last study, gave the district an update using main feeder school enrollments, whether the district could expect any new housing stock and whether homes with no children are likely to soon be occupied by younger families with children.

The numbers are used not only to project building usage and needed space to accommodate all on campus, but also to help with budget projections and staff, Superintendent Von Mansfield said.

The findings show a slow decline in enrollment over the next seven years to an estimated 2,673 students, Cook reported. The report also predicted a gain in students after 2027-28. The student population should grow to an estimated 2,700 students by 2035-36.

The study was dated before the COVID-19 pandemic and committee members Nate Legardy, Debbie Berman and Michelle Hoereth said it didn’t reflect what’s happening in the Homewood-Flossmoor area. 

While the committee members agreed with the statement that District 233 is not expecting any substantial housing construction, Berman said it’s a known fact that houses on the market are selling quickly and many of the new homeowners have children. She didn’t want the district to rely on these numbers for long-range planning because they seem outdated already.

Hoereth asked why the district chose to use someone from North Carolina for the assessment. Cook said he stayed with the out-of-state professor because he had done previous H-F assessments and had information from those studies to rely on. Hoereth said there are people in the immediate area who understand the nuances of H-F and could take on a new study.

The committee suggested to Cook that the study be redone in a year or two.

Mansfield said the study is used primarily for projections. He recalled that when he arrived at H-F 20 years ago, the student enrollment was low — just 2,100 students — and space in the North Building was rented out to Governors State University, an alternative high school and the H-F credit union. The district only used the space for gym classes.

“There was thought given to selling the building because it was so underutilized,” Mansfield said. “Over the next 10 years, enrollment went up by house sales and families came with children and we topped out at 3,100 kids at one time.”  

Fortunately, the school board kept the property. The building is fully occupied by H-F classes and programs, and the gym was torn down and the new field house was constructed.

“So, I think in terms of space the (current) numbers may have gone down but we certainly can handle any large influx of (students due to real estate) selling and buying to incorporate changes over the next 10 to 15 years,” Mansfield said.