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Board moves closer to a school referendum

The Evanston/Skokie District 65 Board of Education moved closer Monday night to appointing a committee that would help sell the rationale for a new school, assuming they determine that a referendum is necessary to obtain funding to solve a projected space crunch.

But what would be the composition of such a committee and what would it be asked to do?

After suffering through two hours-long PowerPoint presentations from the district staff on an update of district goals and the different tests that measure student accomplishments—discussions that were postponed from August meetings– the weary Board members turned to a continuing discussion of the space issue that has focused on the need for a new school in Evanston’s Fifth Ward, where students are bussed to 13 schools outside their neighborhoods.

Some of the questions Board members raised:

Is this a matter of proactively meeting the district’s future space needs or is it about equity in providing neighborhood schools that students can walk to?

Is this a way to upgrade schools that are more than a half-century old so that they can better accommodate the needs of public education in the 21st Century, or is it a desperate attempt to provide classroom seats for a projected student population increase?

Is it more economical to add to existing schools or to build a new school that will provide relief to all the other schools?

How will new construction affect existing school boundaries and the racial makeup of the various schools?

What other alternatives are available, such as leasing space in the former Foster School or moving eighth graders into Evanston Township High School and bumping fifth graders into the three middle schools?

What would a new school look like? Would it be a magnet school that will forge into new educational territory that will reinforce Evanston/Skokie’s desired image as a “lighthouse” district?

Other than a couple of Board members, who else would be asked to serve on the committee to reflect the views of the district? An Evanston city alderman perhaps?

Members Katie Bailey and Jerome Summers agreed to draft a written “charge” for the committee that could be discussed, amended, and approved at the next meeting of the Board, scheduled for October 18. In the meantime, if a referendum in the April election is required, it must be approved by the Board no later than December 13. 

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio stations and business-oriented magazines.

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