With little fanfare, the Evanston/Skokie District 65 Board of Education gave tacit approval Monday night to the notion of opening a new kindergarten-to-fifth-grade school in the city’s 5th Ward.

By a process of elimination, the board rejected alternate scenarios and spent most of the evening discussing how to finance the school and how a referendum to sell bonds to pay for it might be worded.

After all the “I’s” are dotted and all the “t’s” are crossed, the board will officially vote on Dec. 19, the deadline for putting a referendum on the March primary ballot. In the meantime, the Dec. 5 meeting will be devoted largely to the details of financing the venture, according to Board President Katie Bailey.

Board members rejected the idea of building a middle school,mainly because it would not solve the “social justice” criterion that students should have the option to begin their school careers by attending a school in their neighborhood.

They acknowledged that a proposal to adjust their standards on such matters as class size and make do with minimal construction of additional classrooms at existing schools as the need arises would be their fall-back position in case the referendum should fail.

But they were not about to disappoint a full audience that witnessed a steady stream of 28 parents, teachers, and community leaders from throughout the district who all spoke in favor of a new 5th Ward school at the last of three public forums that was held before the board meeting began. No one spoke in opposition to the new school.

The surviving scenario calls for a school with three sections for each grade, with one of the three devoted to the district’s two-way immersion program that features classes taught in both English and Spanish.

Because virtually all of the prospective students are currently being bused to outlying schools in the district, the board insisted that these students be given the choice of attending either their present school or the new school.  An enrollment management strategy would be employed to deal with a situation where either too many or too few opt for the new school.

Although a telephone survey of parents in the new school’s proposed attendance area had indicated that most were satisfied with the schools their children were bused to, member Kim Weaver asked, “Who wouldn’t want to go to a new state-of-the-art school in their own neighborhood?”

Because the new school would not include the middle school grades, as proposed in the recommendation from the New School Committee in September, the referendum would need to include funds for eight additional classrooms each at Haven and Nichols middle schools.

Construction costs are estimated at $20.1 million for the new school, while the additions at the two middle schools would be an estimated $18.6 million, plus additional operational costs, according to revised cost figures distributed at the meeting.

These numbers will form the basis for the financial discussion scheduled for the Dec. 5 meeting of the board.

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. I don’t believe this was a

      I don't believe this was a choice.   Under state law, a voter referendum would be required to build a new school and issue bonds, etc. 

  1. Now we can move on

    Now we can start plans for a high school in the NE and NW parts of the city.

    Certainly students in those parts of the city should be able to attend a school in their neighborhood and not have to bus, bike, drive, walk to Lake and Dodge and should be able to attend a high school made-up of their ethnic/social group.

    If everyone wants an ethnically based school in their neighborhood, these NE and NW students have for too long been neglected.. It is clearly a matter of equity !

  2. What a disappointment

    Was there a vote and did any school board member oppose a new school?

    So the D65 School Board's primary reason it seems to build a $20-28 million new school is "social justice." This new school will get TWI as well?

    Speaking of social justice, how come other D65 elementary schools such as Lincolwnood and Kinglsey don't have TWI? I'd like my kids to learn a foreign language at the elementary level – something ALL Wilmette elementary students are entitled. Why can't my kids have TWI? I pay premium taxes.

    Naturally, parents are not going to a hearing to oppose a new school because you know the name-calling will start. 

    Local education consultant and former D65 school teacher Sarah Csernica Llanes said "her family would forfeit dining out two times a year to foot the cost," according to the Daily Northwestern.  Believe me Sarah, this new school is going to cost you a lot more than eating out two nights a year. Imagine the costs for all the new staff, pension costs, annual salary raises, maintenance etc. 

    The good news is it appears the D65 Board is set to give voters a choice.  I suspect the D65 staff will come in low on all the cost estimates to make a new school sound more appealing.

    This New School Board Committee doesn't sound as if it really concerned itself with the fact that D65 enrollment hasn't even reached peak levels a decade ago. Compound that with the facts that the national birth rates have declined three years in a row, we are in a severe worldwide recession and our city, school, county and state taxes increase EVERY year as property values, and this proposed new school is a formula for failure on so many levels.

    All this time spent on building a new school should have been used to find a way to consolidate D65 and D202 that most Evanstonians I'm sure would support. Right now, it costs $20,000 each year to educate an ETHS student and a little less for a D65 student.

    Why should a school district have just ONE SCHOOL? 

    I am sorely disappointed in the new D65 school board members – Rykus and Budde. When Rykus launched his campaign in January he said he "believes that the school board has erred by focusing too quickly on building a new school in the 5th Ward as the best solution to problems of overcrowding at some existing schools… the board needs to give equal attention to other options — including using temporary classrooms and expanding existing schools."

    Next time, we need at least a dozen D65 school board candidates, and the media needs to ask harder questions so voters can property vet these candidates and both sides of an issue get a fair hearing.


    1. Yes to 65/202 Consolidation

      We don't agree on much with this issue, Al, but I fully support a 65/202 consolidation! LONG overdue! 🙂

    2. Do board members support a new school?

      Did they tell you that? 

      After careful consideration (which you clearly didn't participate in), they decided to give the voters an opportunity to vote on a referendum to build a new school.  I don't know how the board members will vote.  Doesn't much matter now because their votes will count as much and yours and mine. 

  3. Great. Now we can add another

    Great. Now we can add another school to the list of District 65 schools that have poor academics, low achievement, poorly trained teachers and ineffective administration. Cudos to the board for spending $20 million for a structure instead of implementing programs to improve the education in district 65. 

    1. All in cost for proposed school ?

      The story quoted "Construction costs are estimated at $20.1 million for the new school, while the additions at the two middle schools would be an estimated $18.6 million, plus additional operational costs, according to revised cost figures distributed at the meeting."


      How accurate has the Board and the contractors they have used and propose to use, as to costs of prior buildings ?

      Would the contract be "…you bid $X dollars for the new school [building, grounds, etc. ALL INCLUSIVE], you will be expected to meet all these obligations for the $X and will be paid no more, and you must put up a bond to assure such including possibility of your going out of business for whatever reason…." ?


      What are the estimated costs for operations including maintenance, teachers, other staff [cooks, janitors, security, etc. ALL IN] for the school with a confidence band that includes the differences betweeen 'planned' and actual for the other schools ?

  4. Response to JohnF


    It is clear to me, and many others, that you missed the point. And there are far too many issues to even get into. I hope you were being sarcastic. However, if not,  here are a few points to consider:

    1) This is about elementary – a different school district

    2) 28 last night; 21 last Wednesday and SCORES more over the last 40 years from a DIVERSE community supports this

    3) It was never about an "ethicnically based school". Get your facts straight. Many spoke about what the former neighborhood school used to be – a product of racial segregation not controled by those affected – get your history straight.

    4) There are decades of harm that this city has imposed on a class, race and geographic area that has had a long lasting affect that the ciy and schools continue to addres. Currently, the schools are facing overcrowding and further projections of overcrowding. In addition, the ward is beginning to realize new and proposed development. A new school as planned, would be a proactive move for future transitions in a growing and DIVERSE ward.

  5. social justice?

    "Board members rejected the idea of building a middle school,mainly because it would not solve the “social justice” criterion that students should have the option to begin their school careers by attending a school in their neighborhood."


    What does having "the option to begin their school careers by attending a school in their neighborhood" have to do with social justice?    Evanston really isn't that big, and even a bus ride from one corner to the opposite corner isn't too far for kids. 

    The important issue is not where the school is located, but what happens to kids when they get there.  What is the point of having a school within walking distance, if the kids are not being encouraged let their minds enquire?



  6. How did individual board members vote?

    Did they unanimously vote in favor of having a referendum for funding the building of a new school? or did some vote nay or present?

    1. No formal vote

      They agreed by concensus on a path. Formal vote will come next month after the administration fleshes out the details on the proposal.

  7. Hurray

    If the school board votes for a referendum on the day of the deadline for getting it on the ballot, how do they hope to get it submitted to the county on time. If they do get it on the ballot it will give the voters the opportunity to reject it overwhelmingly. The cost of an education in Evanston is already overpriced. Why do Evanston tax payers need to pay way more than other communities. It is time to start looking at ways to trim school costs, not to send costs into the stratosphere. 

  8. Did we elect anyone with common sense? ( District 65 )

    At the last board meeting the most troubling thing I heard was the district's operation budget might be in big trouble.  One board member at least kept on asking about this issue. 

    That is the board may need to put on the ballot a tax increase to keep the district from laying off teachers and other staff which will effect ALL the students not 400 students the "emotional mob" wants build a new school for!

    The board clearly does not have its act together, that is clear.  There appear to be many issues of lack of planning for the over all district here in their new school plan.

    Hardy is not showing much in the way of fiscal leadership here, he should have brought the issue forward of the need for more operating funds, versus building a new school.

  9. New School ?

    I am trying to wrap my mind around all of this and several things jump right out at me… on several levels.  Emotional, financial and philosophical…

    On the emotional side:, I want Evanston to have the best possible schools the members of this community can afford and the teachers, parents and administrators can deliver.  (Key word = afford!)

    On the financial side… I am glad that this question will be put to the voters.  In this economy with skyrocketing tax rates, cost of goods and services going north and lots of talk about "projected costs"…  Has an independent entity done any kind of careful study with real world figures to build, furnish, acquire all of the educational resources, hire staff, pay benefits like insurance and pensions?  I ask this question with one of my property tax bills in Evanston that in 15 years has gone up 400%.

    Do we know how presumably elevated tax rates will affect property values? (can that be part of the study?)… It is not inconceivable that it might get harder to sell, buy or even just stay in this community! I'd like to see clear independent answers before I vote on this proposition! These are thing that will affect future enrollment at our schols.

    On the philosophical: What I don't understand as certified Baby Boomer born in 1955 (reported to be single largest user group of all kinds of things in the history of the United States) I entered Lincoln School in 1960, Nichols in 1967 and ETHS in 1969 (as a class of 1973 graduate).  Where did all the physical capacity to educate children in this community go?

    I do understand that a few schools were sold or re-tasked… but can this newest generation of young people be larger than the one that was easily accommodated way back when… by an exisisting (and improved) infrastructure today?  My ETHS Class of 1973 had an enrollment of approx 5000 students…last year, that number was under 3000!

    Lastly, all this talk and banter about race and social justice – quite frankly, ticks me off… This is Evasnton (and why most of us live here) – I have been integrated, acclimated and educated about lots of stuff including diversity of people and ideas across a very broadband of socioeconomic fabrics since the day I walked to Lincoln school in 1960… I imagine that the curent system probably works better than the '60's & early "70's.

    I am very skeptical about the financial aspects of this issue but also proud to have been a part of the emotional and lived inside the philosophical.

    An honest and satisfactory answer to the financial aspects may just sway me to the emotional and philosophical.

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

  10. Would re-districting solve the school overcrowding issue?

    Evanston now and fellow readers-

       As a parent of two young kids, I fully support kids programming in town.  However, I have yet to see mathematical  proof that the only solution to overcrowding is a new school. 

        Are all schools in D65 experiencing overcrowding?  If yes, is overcrowding projected to continue in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years? 

       Instead of creating a new school, could D65 just re-district school lines in order to balance numbers better?

        If you know the answers, please respond. I have not seen a news article covering any other solutions.  If I am to vote on this issue, I want to see the math.

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