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Posted February 18, 2008–In Chicago, where families have the option of choosing among 100 high schools, district administrators have a tough time tracking where and when students register for high school. The city’s least-desirable high schools bear most of the burden of accommodating late enrolling students, some of whom show up well into October.

Beyond the city, however, the vast majority of public school 8th graders enroll at their hometown high school. Educators in these small school districts can fairly accurately estimate the number of incoming freshmen by keeping tabs on a few feeder elementary schools.

Budgeting and staffing follow suit, and high schools are by and large ready for business on the first day of school.

In Elgin, the second largest district in Illinois, four high schools serve an estimated 9,500 students.

Elgin’s high schools currently operate four—soon to be five—specialized academies, which students must apply to for admission. The programs are Elgin High’s gifted program; Larkin’s visual and performing arts program; Bartlett’s technical and vocational program; and Streamwood’s world languages program.

Altogether, only 200 students are enrolled in the academies. Other freshmen simply attend the school they are eligible to enroll in, based on where they live.

With so few schools and a limited set of options, the district has little trouble with latecomers come fall.

Figuring out how many freshmen will join the high schools is “easy”, says Chief Legal Council Patrick Broncato. The only wild card, he notes, are private elementary school students who have few options in Elgin for private high schools.

That adds a little guesswork to the district’s registration process, says Broncato, but the process is wrapped up weeks before school begins.