Shrinking South could prompt 'difficult' steps

Enrollment at Hinsdale South High School is forecast to continue declining in coming years, raising the potential of changing attendance boundaries to address the growing imbalance between South and Hinsdale Central.

At the April 27 Hinsdale High School District 86 Board meeting, board members discussed a report from demographer John Kasarda projecting that South’s enrollment could dip from its current 1,362 students to 1,100 by the 2028-29 school year if housing turnover and arrival of younger families is sluggish. Kasarda includes three tables in his reports: less than anticipated (series A), on target (series B) and more than anticipated (series C).

Outgoing board President Erik Held, noting that the district has tended to follow the series A track based on the last demography report commissioned in 2015, said the district’s ability to maintain equity across both campuses would be stressed.

“They are trending in, at the moment, the wrong way in the district,” he said. “(South has) 1,300 students now, and in just a few years’ time down to 1,100 students.

“How much differentiation would there be between the two schools in what our offerings would be with maintaining the same staffing framework and not making any changes elsewhere?” he posed.

Kasarda looked at housing and population trends, sender districts and family migration to make projections. South’s enrollment under series B and C for 2028-29 totals 1,289 and 1,501 respectively. Central is predicted to decrease from a current enrollment of 2,463 to a 2028-29 size of 2,035 under series A and 2,263 under series B, and grow a little to 2,497 under series C.

Held said solutions range from allowing smaller classes at South and larger ones at Central to maintain staffing levels to moving attendance boundaries to feed more kids into South.

“No board can ignore the tools that they have at hand, no matter how difficult the conversation would be in the future,” he said of the boundary change option.

Outgoing board member Cynthia Hanson, who requested the demography study, said officials must consider the potential ramifications of the projections.

“What is the point where we need to actually have a conversation in this district about how (declining enrollment at South) impacts other things? “We shy away from it. We don’t really discuss it,” Hanson said, suggesting the year-to-year staffing approach is no longer viable. “We can’t continue moving along on the same framework on how things are done without really considering long-term what the impact is on what we’re promising our students.”

Board member Peggy James struck a less urgent tone, saying the board would need to “keep an eye on” South enrollment.

“(The study) is not showing me any surprises. It’s showing kind of what I expected,” she said.

Superintendent Tammy Prentiss said low enrollment at South has already led to some courses not being offered, and that list will get longer the fewer students there are unless the board decides class sizes of six to eight students are acceptable.

“That’s a very expensive and inefficient model,” Prentiss said, adding that cuts would be required elsewhere.

Held said he hopes the incoming board takes up the issue.

“It’s a very important topic of conversation that we have to discuss,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a substantive impact if we continue along what (the projections are) showing.”

The full Kasarda report can be found on the district’s BoardDocs site at

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean