Although it’s called the New School-Referendum Committee, it wasn’t until last night that the District 65 group formally agreed to recommend opening a new school, presumably in Evanston’s 5th Ward.

Although it’s called the New School-Referendum Committee, it wasn’t until last night that the District 65 group formally agreed to recommend opening a new school, presumably in Evanston’s 5th Ward.

The vote was nearly unanimous. Only Drew Stover, a parent who lives in the 3rd Ward, voted against it, largely, he said, because of complications that would arise from redistricting students from their present schools as well as the effect it might have on middle school attendance areas, not to mention financial considerations.

But co-chairman Jerome Summers, a member of the District 65 Board of Education and an outspoken proponent of a new school in the 5th Ward, contended that redistricting problems could be avoided by allowing students in the ward to choose which school they wished to attend.

At present, he said, there are some blocks in the ward that have students bused to three or four different schools located elsewhere in the district, which includes all of Evanston and a portion of Skokie.

Indeed, committee members and parents who addressed the committee asserted that an overwhelming number of residents in the 5th Ward  favor the opening of a school in their ward that would enable their children to walk to school rather than being bused to schools in other neighborhoods.

One committee member, Lloyd Shepard, said he believes that students forced to be bused out of the neighborhood might suffer psychological damage as a result. Busing “has a very debilitating impact on these kids,” he said.

Now that agreement has been reached on the need for a new school, facilitator Gloria Woods listed a number of issues yet to be decided before the committee can finalize a recommendation to the full Board, which it expects to do in the fall. She categorized these issues into five broad areas: location, financing, governance, enrollment management, and curriculum.

The initial new-school motion was amended from “construct” a new school to “open” a new school on the suggestion of the other co-chair, School Board President Katie Bailey, on the grounds that the committee might opt for establishing a charter school, or leasing space in a building that already exists. Other members expressed support for a new, state-of-the-art facility with air-conditioning, computer terminals, and possibly other high-tech accoutrements.

The committee agreed to continue meeting on these issues throughout the summer, including the possibility of holding a town-hall-style meeting in the 5th Ward to gather community input in addressing the remain issues. Committee meetings are scheduled for June 30, July 14, and July 21 at various locations.

A representative of the Evanston NAACP, Judith Treadway, challenged the assumption that the construction of a new school would require approval of the district’s voters in a referendum. She contended that the district already has the borrowing authority to secure the necessary funds.

The committee was established last December with the charge of determining “the feasibility for building a new school based on space needs and community interest and support.”

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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13 Comments

  1. Foregone conclusion

    Does this decision surprise anyone? Has a D65 committee ever reached a conclusion that was not pre-determined before the process even started? If you create a committee and have it include a majority of people who already favor the outcome, what do you expect? Will Jerome Summers and Lloyd Shepard decide they don't want a school in the 5th ward? How much do you want to bet that the new school will be named "Hardy Ray Murphy School"?

     

  2. “If they build it, will there be anyone to come?”

    I hope before they make a decision to build another school or any decision about schools, they consider who will be the students—rather how many students there will be.

    With Evanston taxes, discouragement of business [if not explicit then through all the barriers they have to go through to even start, meaningless restrictions, inspections, fees, taxes, etc.], laws to irritate  everyone, constant Council proposals everyone has to spend time fighting to show how stupid they are, hearings after hearing to get anything done [when usefull] or stopped [when stupid], zoning, etc., will there be students to attend ?

    Low income families with or without kids, will not be able to afford Evanston and thus move.   Along with those who find the crime and education level of the schools unattractive, young professional who want to "move up" and have been schools, less crime, retired people who just plain cannot afford the city, etc., will mean fewer to pay taxes, which mean taxes will rise and further push residents out.

    Discouragement of business will mean fewer jobs, thus fewer able to afford Evanston unless they find work elsewhere..

    NU students see how poorly the city is run and will decide to build their familes elsewhere.

    Charters and private schools may become more popular with parents who do not think their kids are getting the education they should get—the low income, minorities as reflected in the low scores and those with kids who may score [very] well but parents want even more for them [and school safety].

    Cuts to other school budgets that probably will become necessary under any circumstance and from the new costs [building, new teachers, support staff and of course management/perks that will increase without limit.

    Bottom line, will there be enough students left for even the current schools, let alone a new school ?

  3. Email the board

    Let them know the priorities from voters.  If they want more and better quality space for students, then why are they not planning to build an extension to Haven?  The Haven feeder schools are overcrowded now, which makes it clear that Haven will be overcrowded in a couple of years.  The board also put the only north Evanston TWI strand into Willard without changing the attendance area so there would be room for it to fit.  Only after the students lost both the music room and art room, and force the students into 10 minute lunch periods did they decide to build an extension.  Even with the extension they building is too small for the Gen Ed attendance are and TWI program that it serves.

    Now Jerome Summers wants to spend taxpayer money to build a state of the art school in his neighborhood while ignoring students in North Evanston.

    If you think this is a bad idea, then contact the board members now to show them there will be a consequence in the next board election.

  4. Full disclosure, please

    Given the fact that D65 is already building a second expansion to Dewey, and is also expanding Willard school, (and for all I know, expanding elsewhere) I'd be a bit surprised that D65 has the borrowing authority to build a new school, and wouldn't throw its finances back into turmoil by using it.

    I will also point out to my fellow Evanston residents (and Dewey Community members) that this is not just about the Fifth Ward. An earlier story in Evanston Now available here:

    http://tinyurl.com/29yzk6j

    or here

    http://evanstonnow.com/story/news/bill-smith/2010-11-19/west-side-residents-divided-over-5th-ward-school

    Indicates that the "district-staff-proposed attendance area for the new school" includes part of the current Dewey attendance area. The attendance area for the proposed new school includes parts of the fifth and second wards.

    Now is the appropriate time for district staff, the new school committee and the board to make full disclosure to the community.

    Will my neighbors be forced to leave their own neighborhood school for a school in another neighborhood? I sympathize with the plight of families who don't want busing; however, let's not do it by taking a neighborhood school away from a different set of residents.

    Will all Evanston residents have school choice? Or only residents in the fifth ward?

    How will the capital expenses of a new school plan be financed, and can D65 continue to balance its budget while covering the capital expenses?

     

  5. 5th Ward School–it’s not about doing best for the children

    It is without question that building and operating a new school in the 5th Ward will require redistricting.  Why isn't the board and committee publicizing how redistricting will affect other schools ?

    More importantly, why aren't they focusing on what is best for the children who would be attending this school?

    One of the worst things for lower income children and their education is concentrating lower income children together in schools. Lower income children do better–yes, learn more and perform better on assessments–when they attend school with higher income children.  That is an empirical fact.

    The 5th Ward contains more foreclosure and distressed housing than other wards, and while there will be exceptions, the income distribution of the proposed 5th Ward school will likely to be more concentrated at lower end than the higher end, unless D65 draws a line to include higher income families (e.g., from Dewey area or perhaps Lincolnwood)  No amount of additional resources will  erase the gaps that will ensue.

    For a committee with such an important charge one wonders why D65 Board did not require that all committee members at minimum have children currently attending school in D65. It is easy to make a recommendation like this one when you have no skin in the game.

    1. 5th Ward School Considerations

      Re: "Why aren't they focusing on what is best for the children who would be attending this school?"

      I think one challenge is that there are a number of residents of the 5th Ward who believe that building a school there WOULD be the best thing for the children who live there. Some residents' beliefs appear to stem from their own history as students as Foster School, a place where they believe Black students received a better education than they do now. Indeed, the belief that many Black children in the United States were "better" educated prior to desegregation is one that emerges in the research literature on the subject. At a time when discrimination overtly prevented highly educated Black adults from getting jobs in their professional fields, teaching in a segregated school was (for many) the only viable career pathway. So, in many cases, Black children were taught by teachers who had advanced degrees (esp. true at the high school level in the 50s and early 60s). Some researchers also contest that at that time Black teachers teaching Black children held higher expectations for their pupils than either teachers of all backgrounds do today.

      Research-wise, it's not so much that lower-income children suffer from simply "being together," or that being with higher-income children generates some kind of special magic. The unfortunate, but widely-documented fact is that teacher expectations for poor/minority children are lower than they are for majority-culture and well-off students. And we also know from research that students perform up or down to teacher expectations. This is the case even at the classroom level when there are 20 White students and 1 Black student. The extent to which opening a school in the 5th ward would further exacerbate that problem is something to consider.

      At the same time, I think it could be argued that a school in the 5th Ward could go a long way to help the "distressed" neighborhoods therein. And if the line were drawn to approximate the actual Fifth Ward map, higher-income families would be included–many of whose children now attend Dewey, I believe. I'm guessing that we'd hear the loudest protests from that group, with a lot of language around taking kids from their present "neighborhood school." 

      I wonder, too: When does the  term "neighborhood school" become a euphemism for "I don't want MY kids to go to school with THOSE kids"?  It gets even more complicated when I consider possible motives for White parents' (self included) who would support the building of a 5th ward school. Having a school "for those kids" seems like a convenient way to get them out of yours.

      Just some things to think about around what is obviously a very complex issue for our community–and has been for some time. There are no easy answers, that's for sure.

  6. While I understand the

    While I understand the historical factors and racial/socioeconomic implications in a city with largely segregated housing patterns, I find the notion of a "neighborhood school" in a city of Evanston's square mileage a little puzzling. We live closest to the south side schools, but I wouldn't bat an eyelid if someone said, "The lines have been redrawn, and your kids now have to be bussed to the north/east/west side." Me: "Okay."

    Maybe it's because I grew up in a suburb where virtually everyone, self included, took a bus? Makes it hard for me to see having a short commute time (by foot or car) to school as a "right." I recognize that a bus adds time in most cases, but is any residence in the district more than a 20-minute car ride to any school? Let's be reasonable. I know of no rigorous study that claims that student learning improves when commute time is reduced, or that students who attend a "neighborhood school" perform better than students who don't.

    Could we not create a system (as a number of large urban districts have) based on choice, with preference given for the neighborhood school closest to one's home?(Would need limitations to prevent "school-hopping" from year to year, of course.)

    I'd be for a new school in the 5th ward (even though I don't live there) and would hope that the facilities are designed and built to represent the most advanced technologies in school architecture. At the same time, even with the additions at Dewey, Willard, and Oakton, the insides of both those schools and all of the buildings are in desperate need of renovation/updating. Ideally, I'd like to see that prioritized above a new school, but I understand that for many of my community members, a neighborhood school would be a much-needed, long-awaited source of promise and pride.

  7. is it true

    that we actually have enough classrooms and this is a distribution and not capacity problem?  I have heard this from multiple people but no one authoritatively.  If it is true then building a new school is just crazy.  REDRAW the lines.  We can handle it.  Especially if it means those millions will go to the teachers, kids, and buildings we already have.

    1. Opening of Schools Reports

      Every fall the district publishes the Openning of Schools report, which has student count for the district and broken down by school, grade, race, gender, and other things.  The district used to have all of the historical reports on their website, but I could not find it just now.  You can ask for them though.  They might actually give you copies.   You can get the latest one here:  http://www.district65.net/Departments/communications/S010538C6-01229CE3

      I recall when they were posted that the district had been in a long decline of student population.  It has reversed in just the past couple of years, but D65 still has a lot fewer students in it than it did 10 years ago.

      1. thanks!

        you led me down the road to find it.  Here s a link that has 10 years of D65 enrollment data http://iirc.niu.edu/School.aspx?source=About_Students&source2=Enrollments&schoolID=050160650042020&level=S

        years and enrollments:  

        In 1999, 6,887 students

        In 2000, 6,905 students

        In 2007, 6,098 students

        In 2010, 6,346 students

        There was room for 550 more students than we have now without the additions we have been building (which is AT LEAST 5 new classrooms).  I really, really do not understand why we are talking about a new school.  Upgrade existing facilities and redraw the attendance areas.  Make King Lab a neighborhood school if that is what is needed.  But don't bankrupt the whole district to build a new school when we clearly have the capacity for the number of student we have right now.

  8. Let Voters Decide

    Though I support a new school in the 5th Ward, the issue is supposed to be put forth before the voters in a referendum.  The dire financial condition of D65 and the possibility that a new school may blow out the budget needs to be fully debated in the public arena.  The D65 school board has to map out how the school will be paid for and the impact on local taxes.  It also has to show the public an attendance map for the new school. 

    One question that is not asked is how this will effect the Magnet Schools.  I think Evanston should return to a complete neighborhood school system. 

    What if King Lab was a K-8 neighborhood school would that meet the needs of the 5th Ward.  If it does little costs will be incurred by the taxpayer.

    1. It’s in the Second Ward

      That's a good thought re: MLK Lab. But it's in the 2nd Ward and probably not "walkable" for a majority of young kids who live in the 5th Ward (if "walkable" is in the definition of "neighborhood school").

  9. Where’s the Money?

    Evanston does need to put its financial house in order, and the large federal redevelopment grant would put foreclosed and abandoned properties back on the tax rolls  – that will help in two or three years.

    Why is Evanston considering the expense of building, maintaining, and staffing another grade school? 

    Evanston homeowners have only so much money and many of their home loans are now under water.
    Skokie’s taxes are much lower than Evanston’s, for a variety of reasons.  Do we want to price our town out of the homebuyer market by raising property taxes prohibitively?

    Evanston property owners can’t bail out city finances AND build a new school – there is only so much money.

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