D65 board struggles to find alternative to new school

Trying to convince voters they have explored every alternative to building a new K-8 west side school to respond to rising enrollments, the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board worked until 11:21 p.m. Monday examining 10 other options.

Those ranged from doing nothing to building a smaller school that would not go beyond the fifth grade.

But none of the options appeared to trump the original recommendation of a special ad hoc committee of board members and community representatives that recommended the new school to the full board last month.

One option was to completely restructure and repurpose the present schools to provide for three sets of schools rather than just elementary and middle schools as exist currently.

This would require an extensive busing system that would shuttle the youngest students to one school for kindergarten, then move them to an intermediate school at fourth grade and then to a junior high school for seventh and eighth grades before passing them along to the high school for ninth grade and beyond.

Another option would involve leasing space at the high school from District 202. But at the suggestion of member Andrew Pigozzi, a school architect, who warned that the type of space available at the high school would be unsuitable for younger students, other members seemed to agree, and discussion on that option went no further.

To do nothing, however, was immediately rejected as it would result in larger class sizes that would bring increased discipline problems and would require more use of busing to take advantage of rapidly disappearing available space.

The board kept that option on the table, however, as it would be the default option if it could not find a better solution or if a planned referendum to provide funding for the new school should fail.

As the long evening drew to an end, the board directed the administration to consider an option that would involve building a smaller kindergarten-to-fifth-grade school and adding a wing to the Haven and Nichols middle schools to accommodate the additional students as they reached that level.

Before they discussed the various scenarios, the board heard a presentation by architect John Casstellana of TMP Architects, who had analyzed various locations for the proposed new school. The board narrowed his list of seven locations down to the two pieces of property that are already owned by the district.

One is Foster Field, located just north of the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, and the other is at McDaniel Avenue and Church Street on vacant land just north of the District 65 administration building.

The board asked the administration to examine the feasibility of building the school on Foster Field and developing the McDaniel property with academic fields that could be shared by all schools, as well as by the community at large. 

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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