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D161 enrollment up this school year despite expectation of a drop after graduation of large class

Enrollment is up slightly in Flossmoor School District 161 this school year.

Superintendent Dana Smith updated the board of education on enrollment figures during a meeting held Tuesday, Oct. 12. Total enrollment in the district is 2,310 students for the 2021-2022 school year, compared with 2,245 students last year, he said.

The increase of 65 students contrasts with the expectation that the district would be down more than 100 students because of a “very large class” of eighth-graders leaving Parker Jr. High School and a smaller group of last year’s fifth-graders coming into that school, Smith said.

“We’re very happy to see the numbers, in general,” he said.


Flossmoor Hills and Serena Hills elementary schools are down 16 and 17 students, respectively. But Heather Hill Elementary School increased by 38 students. Western Avenue Elementary School was up 42 and Parker 18 over last year’s enrollment.

“Not counting our kindergarten students, we have 353 completely new children in District 161 this year, representing about 15% of our population,” Smith said. “Certainly as our housing stock has turned over in our boundaries, we’ve reaped the benefit of that.”

Smith said that is mostly a good thing.

“Some of our classrooms are tight; some of our buildings are tight,” he said. “Overall, more students are better for all of us.”

District considers hiring homebound tutoring service
Jackie Janicke, the district’s director of special education, presented for discussion her recommendation to hire Academic Coach LLC to provide homebound tutoring services for students who need them. The company charges $40 per hour for the services, with a recommendation of five hours weekly for students utilizing the services.

The proposal came after Janicke said the district has made “many attempts” to hire homebound tutors, which included posting the position internally and outside of the district, asking retired teachers and certified substitutes if they would be willing to do it, and requesting help from both neighboring school districts and a special education cooperative.

“Unfortunately, none of those attempts were successful,” Janicke said.
The homebound services help students who are unable to attend school for medical reasons and need options to continue their education, Janicke explained. She said there are “just a handful of students” who applied for homebound services.

Academic Coach was recommended by Elevate K-12, which already works with the district for other services. Janicke said she had a lengthy conversation with the owner and operator, who is familiar with District 161’s curriculum.

Other Business
● As part of its consent agenda, the school board voted 6-0 to approve a $5 hike to guest teacher rates in an effort to entice teachers who may work for multiple districts in the area to take more assignments from District 161. The rates increased from $110-120 per day to $115-125 per day. The board previously discussed the matter on Sept. 27. Board member A. Janelle Scharon was absent at the time of the vote.
● Sarah Rudenga, a media center coordinator for Parker Jr. High School, won a grant for Project Makeover: Media Center Edition through the State Board of Education. The grant brought in $16,857 to purchase computers and other media equipment for students and staff.
● Amabel Crawford, the district’s director of learning and instruction, was named to the governing board for the Regional Office of Education.
The district’s Long Range Planning Committee has started a process to “systematically study and review … school facilities” to make sure they match the strategic plan in place, according to a report from Smith. Committee meetings and site visits are planned from October through February, with reports to the board expected as the study progresses.

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