Rockford area private schools see decrease in enrollment numbers

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Rockford, Ill (WIFR) -- A declining population means fewer students to fill classrooms.

"We've had slight decreases every year and we'll have another this year," said President of Boylan Catholic High School Amy Ott. "Children between the ages of 14 and 17, there’s been in the last 10 years an over 10 percent decrease in population, so part of our decrease is related to just a decrease in the numbers of kids available to go to school."

Since 2006, enrollment in both public and private school in the Rockford region dropped by nearly 6,000 students, with private education choices feeling it the most.

"If we lose 10 kids, it's 10 out of 800,” said Rockford Lutheran School superintendent Don Gillingham, “if 205 loses 10 kids, it's 10 out of thousands, and so it’s not noticed in the same way."

Schools like Rockford Lutheran are taking an active approach to cushion decreasing enrollment numbers.

"We have a very community-based school and that's one of the ways we attract people,” said Gillingham. “We've been involved in Transform Rockford, community service, it's one of our core values. These are the things that make it worth it."

Private schools compete with more than just public districts, with options like charter schools or homeschooling, leading some to look for students abroad.

"We have our international program, Rockford Christian Schools International,” said Paul Brandt, superintendent of Rockford Christian Schools. “I like to think of it as Rockford Christian brings the world to Rockford and then through our graduates we send Rockford out to the world."

Outside programs like the Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit through the state of Illinois helped give schools an enrollment boost. But going forward, many say they are making changes to attract more students.

"If we can find ways to offer that excellent education in our environment to as many students as possible, that's what we're going to do," said Ott.