A recent presentation to the Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 Board of Education by OPRF Principal Nathaniel Rouse showed that 245 people were prohibited from enrolling at the high school during the 2017-18 school year after residency checks found that they did not live in the school district.
Most of those students denied enrollment, Rouse said, were attempting to transfer from, “or already lived in,” Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, Forest Park, Maywood, Berwyn and Bellwood.
Rouse’s report showed that the number of residency cases determined ineligible and the number of questionable cases that the district had to look into have risen markedly over the last five years.
Between the 2013-14 and 2017-18 school years, the number of questionable cases has increased by around 30 percent — from 853 to 1,102. During that same period, the number of cases determined ineligible increased by nearly 47 percent — from 167 to 245.
In his report, Rouse explained that “it’s almost impossible” for the district to know the schools those students were registered to when they were trying to enroll at OPRF.
Questionable enrollment cases at OPRF last year came up during the school’s residency verification period last June, during which the district’s verification staff reviewed information that was submitted online and compared it to residency documentation that families provided.
Enrollment and residency verification applies to all incoming freshmen at OPRF, according to a letter the district sent to families on April 18.
The residency verification process is “to help ensure that only students who legally reside within the District’s boundaries receive educational services funded by District tax dollars.”
Rouse said that enrollment issues are typically prompted by a variety of red flags, including “expired leases with insufficient proofs of address or fraudulent proofs of residency,” claims of “live-in situations” that were ruled invalid after home visits, calls from landlords alerting the district that their tenants had moved out of the area and returned mail, among other things.
The principal added that some strategies the verification staff uses to determine residency include “follow-up phone calls with families, landlords and previous schools, public database checks, home visits, interviews and surveillances.”