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...

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  1. D65 School Board is moving in wrong direction

    So the real question is will the committee be comprised of diehard pro-Fifth Ward school members or will it have dissenting voices? 

    We already know a Fifth Ward school is Jerome Summers primary objective. Kate Bailey seems to be in agreement.

    Perhaps the Board should ask Mayor Tisdahl to recommend someone to serve on the Fifth Ward school committee. Afterall, the mayor appointed a friend, Sharon Arceneaux, to the Library Board who was a deciding vote against keeping the branch libraries open – a very contentious issue.  The mayor, you might remember, bought Arceneaux’s home when it was in foreclosure, let her live in it and sold it back to her. If someone did that for me, I’d be much obliged. Just sayin. 

    Maybe there are others who owe the mayor or school board members some favors?.

    Isn’t that the way politics works in Evanston? We all know a Fifth Ward school is going to be on the referendum.

    I mean, a previous school board in the good old days of 2002 voted against a Fifth Ward school. Now in a severe Recession with tax revenues approaching a fifth year of serious decline, unemployment near 10 percent and property values falling, D65 wants to spend $14-20 million to  BUILD a new school at a time that student enrollment hasn’t even reached the peak levels of 10 years ago. Let’s not forget about the new staff and administrators that would be hired for this new school – costing taxpayers even more.

    The D65 Board should focus on cutting back and giving taxpayers some relief. How about consolidating D65 and D202?

    Our local leaders do not seem inclined to cutback in these hard economic times. Taxes everywhere keep going up.

    I wonder how these local politicians balance their budget at home?

  2. Are you kidding!

    Instead of building a new school, let’s build a poor house, so everyone bankrupted from the taxes can live?

  3. is every seat in the district full?

     I am not willing to watch a 2 hour powerpoint presentation so I have a question.  

    I know there are some schools facing space crunches due to blips in demographic trends, but are there enough spaces in existing schools to accommodate all our kids?  In other words, do we have some schools that are extra full right now but some are not to capacity?  There should not be any building until every school is at capacity.

    I am really sorry if that means some kids would have to travel a little farther, but buses are a lot less expensive than new buildings.  

    1. Is every seat in the distrct full?

      Why should students in the 5th ward have to get bused while other student scan walk to their attendance area schools… It is simply not fair.. I used to live in the 5th ward when I was younger and I was bused out the ward to go to school to make sure the schools were racially equal for students in Evanston… There is no community school in the fifth ward.. Please build another school…

      1. The Cost of “Fairness”

        Kimberly since you are such a strong proponent on building a new school perhaps you and the other supporters would  like to volunteer to finance the construction yourself.  Let’s see- assume 10,000 of Evanston’s 80,000 residents strongly support the new school.  At a $20 million construction cost, you and the other supporters only have to come up with $2,000 each.  Then maybe an extra $500 per year per person each to pay for the extra staff and maintainence every year thereafter. Are you OK with that? 

        1. If only it worked that way

          Think of all the money I would have saved over the years not funding branch libraries and other things I don’t support.

      2. Who walks to school?

        Do we know the figures for how many elementary students actually walk to their assigned school? My first-grade granddaughter lives in the Dewey attendance area and can’t walk there, probably never will, even as a fifth-grader. Traffic on Ridge and Asbury, perverts, thieves and drug dealers – her parents drive her to school, period. Point: Walking v. riding isn’t a valid argument for much of anything school-related these days.

      3. Most will be bused anyway

        Many student living all over Evanston are bused to school because they would have to cross busy streets.  In fact, many students living in the 5th ward and attending King Lab–blocks away–are bused because church, dogde, lake, dempster, etc. are busy streets.

        In fact an analysis conducted several years ago–by D65–indicated that a fifth ward school would NOT reduce busing.  Busing will happen regardless.

      4. my kids have to ride the bus

        and we don’t live in the 5th ward.  I am just one person, of course, but what percent of each school is bussed? and what percent is too much?  

        and also, I just compared maps.  It seems there must be a lot of 5th ward students that walk to Dewey.  am I wrong on this?  

  4. Budget at home?!

    Come on, Al. I don’t know about the politicians, but do you think Hardy Murphy has troubled scraping by  on $300,000 a year?

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