Morton expects continued school enrollment growth

Steve Stein
sstein@pekintimes.com

Morton High School enrollment will grow from 923 students this school year to 1,110 students in 2023-24, an increase of nearly 17 percent.

Morton Junior High School enrollment will climb from 425 to 542 students during the same 10-year time span, a more than 21 percent increase.

Those are two of the forecasts made by Cropper GIS Consulting, a Dublin, Ohio-based demography firm hired by District 709 to help the district determine future facilities needs.

Jerome McKibben from Cropper GIS presented a report to the board Feb. 4 that also included enrollment projections for the district's four elementary schools.

Jefferson appears to have the best chance for significant growth because of the number of young adults living in the attendance area.

McKibben detailed the sources and methodology used for the projections, and discussed variables like interest rates and unemployment figures that can wreak havoc with enrollment forecasts.

"It isn't the construction of new homes that drives up enrollment. It's the availability of affordable starter homes for young families," he said.

"But if you can't get a mortgage because the interest rates are too high, you can't move into a house."

Cropper GIS was hired — at a cost of about $10,000 — from a recommendation made during a facilities advisory committee meeting.

The committee, made up of district administrators, board members, teachers and community members, will present its recommendations to the board Feb. 18.

Also Feb. 4, board members:

• Approved the low bid of $327,000 from South Elgin-based Abel Plus Services for asbestos abatement at the high school.

Work will be done to prepare for the replacement of the heating system this summer, plus in the band practice room, computer server room, the corridor by the east gym and a basement corridor.

• Learned from Superintendent Lindsey Hall that Feb. 4 was the first day school buses operated out of the district's new transportation facility off Courtland Street.

• Learned from Hall that the Farnsworth Group architectural and engineering firm of Peoria has been hired to present options to improve the high school's outdoor athletic facilities.

• Learned from Hall that bids will be secured in early March for a project to replace the blacktop at Jefferson and the fence on the southeast corner of the school's campus.

Updates given:

• Demographer Report — Dr. Jerome McKibben of Cropper GIS reviewed the results of their findings concerning population and enrollment trends. The report is available on the District 709 website.

• Game Ball Run — A service project started by high school basketball Coach Jarrett Brown last year. This is the first year it is a district-wide fundraiser with all schools participating. A check will be presented to The Children’s Hospital of Illinois at Friday night’s game against Pekin High School.

• Bus Facility — buses started running from the new facility on Feb. 4. A public open house will be held in the spring.

• Facilities Advisory Committee had its final meeting on Jan. 30. The committee’s recommendations will be presented to the Board of Education on Feb. 18.

• Athletics Facilities — Farnsworth Group has been chosen as the architects for planning for the athletic facilities at the high school. Discussions are underway.

• High School Heating Project — a pre-construction meeting was recently held for planning the heating project that will take place this summer. Losing a week due to emergency days taken will have an impact. Much of the area outside the high school will be used for staging and equipment.

• Jefferson Playground — new blacktop and fencing are planned for Jefferson School for this summer.

• PARCC Update — Some classes at Brown, Jefferson, Jr. High and High School have been chosen to take a pilot test of the new state testing that will go into effect next year. Testing will begin at Brown School on March 24.

Approved items:

• Asbestos Abatement Bids — related to high school heating project.

• Network Upgrade — to prepare the network to handle the additional load of personal computing devices and refresh older network equipment.

Board meeting highlights