Taft expected to experience slight drop in enrollment but budget similar to last year


Taft High School is expected to have a slight decrease in its enrollment this fall due to what principal Mark Grishaber calls the “9/11” effect.

“In the 9/11 year they were not having babies. People were scared,” Grishaber said at the July 21 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council meeting. “It’s 3 percent across the country. Three percent is 90 kids for us.”

The Chicago Public Schools projects Taft’s enrollment this fall to be 3,303, but the school estimates that it will be about 3,200, compared to 3,270 in September of last year. The school’s enrollment drop is expected to last no more than 2 years, Grishaber said.

On variable in the school’s projection could be the number of late transfers it receives from the parochial schools, Grishaber said. In some instances a student loses an athletic scholarship and then transfers to a public school, he said.

The school system has allocated Taft $17,981,532, or $5,444 per student, for its general operating expenses in 2015-16, but Taft will lose up to about $500,000 of those funds if it fails to meet the school system’s enrollment projection. Grishaber said that last year the school did not take away funds from schools that did not meet their projection, allowing for Taft to pay for the renovation of its auditorium.

Most of the school’s salaries come out of its general, or student-based, budget, with the rest being paid out of its approximately $2 million of discretionary funds, which are based on the number of low-income students at the school. Taft also collects additional revenues from student fees and concession sales, including the sale of pop.

The school’s combined general and discretionary budget is “basically the same” as last year, Grishaber said.  Taft will be losing about four teaching positions in part because of the enrollment drop, but none of the school’s teachers are being laid off due to normal attrition, he said.

Several LSC members said that Taft appears to be in better fiscal shape than several other high schools which are experiencing large reductions in their budget. According to a published report, eight high schools are losing more than $900,000, including Lane Tech and Foreman.

Taft’s budget includes funding for a climate and culture director, whose responsibilities include security, and one of the council members asked Grishaber if those funds would be better spent on an additional English teacher.

Grishaber said that he wants the school’s security to positively interact with students on a regular basis and to deal with some issues by talking to the student rather than having them arrested for a minor offense. He said that the school made great strides in the past eliminating “the disconnect” between students and security at Taft.

Grishaber said that when he was in high school, he would have “run through a wall” if his coach told him to do so but that those days are long gone. “You have to talk to the kids. You have to reason with these kids,” he said.

Also at the meeting, it was reported that the standard student fee at Taft this fall is $395 and include more items than in the past. Grishaber said that while last year’s fee was $250, students often paid more because they were charged for instructional materials in some classes.
Additional fees will be assessed for the Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center, driver’s education, senior commencement, locks and gym uniforms.

Students whose families cannot afford the fee can apply for a waiver or will be asked to help out in the school office or to clean the campus in exchange for a reduction, Grishaber said.

The next Taft LSC meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15.