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Enrollment declines leveling off at Fieldcrest

Wednesday, August 29, 2018 - Posted 8:53:23 PM
Fieldcrest Superintendent Dr. Dan Oakley said the school startup went well this year. He said it appears that the enrollment numbers in the Fieldcrest school district are leveling off after substantial declines the last several years. The total PK-12 enrollment for the district declined from 1001 to 985 which is a decline of 16 compared to a decline of 55 students for the 2017-2018 school year.

The breakdown for the enrollments numbers by grade are PK-3: 210, 4-6: 191, 7-8: 237, and 9-12: 347. Class sizes averaged around 20 students.

While Dr. Oakley expects enrollment to continue to decline to around 838 in the 2023-2024 school year, he felt the decline will eventually level off. He said families in flux and job and poverty issues continue to be the main reasons for the loss of students. He said the enrollment decline will have more of an impact at the high school level where the ability to offer curricular and extra curricular activities may be reduced, especially in the area of sports. He didn't think that staff numbers will change much.

Board member Charles Lohr said he felt the affordability of smaller communities will attract young families which may halt the decline in enrollment. He said the number of homes for sale in Wenona has declined and thinks that might be the case in Minonk and Toluca as well.

Dr. Oakley said lower gas prices make it more affordable to live in a small community where longer commuting distance to work are common,

For more statistics on the enrollment trend for the Fieldcrest school district, click here.

In other business, the board was addressed by Tom Leahy of IASB which is conducting a search for a new superintendent to replace Dr. Oakley, who will be retiring in December of 2019. Mr. Leahy reviewed the results of several surveys that were conducted to determine the important attributes to be looking for in a new superintendent. Surveys were completed by the school board, school staff, parents and the community.

The number one requirement from the surveys is teaching experience. One interesting item revealed that only 1 out of 6 board members felt it important for the superintendent to live in the district whereas the other surveys felt strongly that residency in the district was important. Because of this schism, the board agreed that the residency requirement be a preference and not a requirement when preparing a brochure to be used for soliciting applications.

The board agreed to set October 30 as the cutoff date for applications after which interviews will be scheduled for applicants that pass the screening test by the search firm which uses the results of the survey as the basis for determining whether an applicant is to be considered.

The board is to review the brochure and give their final approval in the next week. The board also will determine a final date for making a decision on hiring a new superintendent which will probably be sometime in early 2019.