The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board asked the administration Monday night to come up with scenarios for meeting long-term capacity needs — including some that would not involve building a new school or substantially expanding existing schools.

But members insisted that all scenarios meet so-called “social justice” criteria that would involve sacrifice, if necessary, spread evenly throughout the district and not confined to parents and students in minority areas.

The request was an apparent reaction to public comments that implied that district voters were not yet ready to approve a referendum for financing a new school to alleviate pressures from growing enrollments, even though an ad hoc committee had studied various options before coming to the conclusion that a new school would be the district’s best bet.

At the same time, the board has heard from a steady stream of black leaders who contend that their community deserves to have a neighborhood school that students can walk to.

Until the end of the 1960s, there was such a school–Foster School–which was closed in 1969 after busing began in 1967 to achieve voluntary integration of the district’s schools.

The old Foster School now houses Family Focus. But the district still owns the adjacent Foster Field, which is one of the sites being considered for a new school in the central core of Evanston.

Among the possible alternatives to a new school mentioned by board members would be extensive redistricting of attendance-area schools that could involve busing students from predominantly white areas to schools located in or near more diverse residential areas.

Another suggestion was to make one or more schools a kindergarten-through-second grade school, with others designated third-through-fifth grade.

Other options might include year-round schools that would utiilize space currently unoccupied in the summer months or leasing space in the Evanston/Northwestern Research Park at Emerson and Maple. Whatever option is chosen, however, it would not increase district-approved class size guidelines.

The implication was that the no-build scenarios might be so draconian that voters would readily opt for approving the new-school solution recommended by the district’s New School/Referendum Committee earlier this month.

After listening to the administration and other board members give their opinions on an appropriate timeline for reaching a decision in time for putting a referendum question on the March primary ballot, Board President Katie Bailey announced the following timeline:

  • Oct. 10 — Discuss administration scenarios and financing options, including an update on attendance projections.
  • Oct. 24 — Consider locations for a new school that would be suitable and available. At this meeting, the board would also discuss community feedback and consider the effect of various options on student achievement.
  • Nov. 7 — An  “extra” meeting to discuss issues raised in earlier meetings.
  • Nov. 21 — Final discussion of the various options before putting the issue up for a vote.
  • Dec. 5 — Vote on whether to hold a referendum.
  • Dec. 19 — Final opportunity to approve precise language for a referendum vote.

“We’ve set an impressive agenda for the next two months,” Bailey said.

In other action, the board held a public hearing on the tentative budget for the current fiscal year that had earlier been approved by the Board. When no members of the public appeared to comment on the budget, which calls for an $856,000 surplus, the board formally adopted it by a unanimous vote.

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. Does anyone remember long-range planning committee’s work?

    In the early 1990's, a very hardworking, very diverse committee was appointed by the District 65 board to develop proposals to help with crowding and equity issues in Evanston schools.  They worked over two years and developed several interesting proposals, including:

    • pairing:  two schools would be paired (e.g. Orrington and Oakton) and one would enroll k-2 and the other 3-5 so a broader and more diverse population would be enrolled together
    • clustering:  similar to pairing but involving three schools
    • controlled choice:  each school would have a thematic base (e.g. arts or language or science) and students would be enrolled in one of their top three choices

    All of these were interesting ideas.  All were shot down by the community which as often is true in Evanston, wanted progress without change.  And so Timber Ridge (now Bessie Rhodes) was opened.  A magnet school had not been a proposal resulting from the hard and well-researched work of the committee.

    On the issue of neighborhood schools, Oakton is a majority minority school where the only bused in children are those who choose to be enrolled in either TWI or the ACC program.  Most everyone walks to school. 

    Has anyone looked at actually redistricting so more kids in the 2nd and 5th ward can walk to the schools that are close:  Dewey and Kingsley and King Lab?  What is the purpose of the magnet schools in this current system?

  2. Great Idea For the Community If We Had The Money…

    …but we simply don't…other options must be found to address "social injustice" in the District.  Let's explore those and consider building once the economic climate warrants….

    1. Biggest “Social Injustice” is…

      …undereducating our children.

      Fascinating to read the articles, talk with people, observe the work of the New School Committee, and just absorb the rhetoric of "Social Justice" and "Educational Equity". Living in South Evanston for 20 years and raising 4 kids who are in both D65 and D202 provides interesting perspective into our community. People want an easy answer and the "quick fix". It's easier to blame someone else than take responsibility. There is a fallacy that building a new school in the 5th ward will solve the problems for children in that area. There is a fallacy at ETHS that combining a significant majority of freshman students into one English and Social Studies class will lead to improved educational outcomes. People need to wake up and recognize that raising kids and educating our youth requires a lot of time, effort and hard work. Students don't become educated by osmosis. Education requires a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

      Good news for students in District 65 is that we have a more responsible board that won't allow the administration to laud their achievements for just Meeting State Standards. Our children over the next 5, 10, 20 + years will face a much more globally competitive environment and those "undereducated" students will have fewer opportunities in the future. People who don't understand this concept need to WAKE UP and pay attention BEFORE it is too LATE.

      So what needs to be done? Educate and engage parents/guardians into the educational process of their children. Education just doesn't happen at school. This is one of the biggest misunderstandings. For parents/guardians who don't recognize this issue or can't provide the support, we need to engage the community. How? We have multiple agencies/organizations in Evanston, but there is no coordinated effort to fill in the holes. Adult mentors can help guide students in need. We also need to provide comprehensive early childhood education for all children. The Evanston Community Foundation is sponsoring a program called CommunityWorks, "Every Child Ready for Kindergarten, Every Youth Ready for Work." There is a match available that's good through September 29th. Stop complaining, and start donating. Click on the link or Google Evanston Community foundation and donate $ 10 – your money will be matched with $ 20 so in total your contribution will result in $30 for this important effort:

      As a community we cannot change history. We can provide thoughtful and well organized programs to help all of our youth. Engaging in class, racial, gender, ethnic discussions doesn't help our children or community. This will require leadership and a lot of hard work. Stop the excuses and get to work.

      Is Evanston up to this task?




  3. Educational Equity

    Very interesting information. I didn't realize those discussions happened in the 90's.

    I'm not surprised these innovative ideas didn't go anywhere. I think because this is a relatively small town with such socioeconomic extremes in the population, education is a difficult to subject on which to find consensus.

    As progressive as Evanstonians like to think we are, we're overall a pretty segregated bunch.

    Public school is one place that brings people from different walks of life together in this town. That makes some people uncomfortable and lead to the whole "progress without change" mindset.

    I too question the purpose magnets currently serve and think, given the current economic climate, the phone survey of 5th Ward parents with school aged kids and the fact that D65 actually has a smaller population than it did 10 years ago, that building a new school is not a sensical option.

    It seems to me that redistricting deserves a closer look.

    1. Why ‘resegregate’ ?

      Why is there such a push to re-segregate Evanston schools ?  I thought "separate" but equal had long passed.  Now it seems it is back to "us" versus "them" but this time the black community [actually I'm sure just a small number] wants "their own" school.

      Busing is not good but given groups wanting to live in "their" community, how do you avoid it ?  Probably redraw the district so that multiple groups are included in each district.  But then you get the same type of gerrymandering we see in Chicago and Congressional districts.

      Open the schools up to any student being able to pick their school—including private and charters so they can get the best education—-not the "us" education.

  4. Keep up the dialogue

    I'm relieved to hear that the discussion about all these topics (population growth, ethnic integration, educational improvement, neighborhood schools, etc) is continuing with multiple scenarios still under consideration.

    It's been disheartening to consider how to jump in on the issue of building a new school within a geography that doesn't have a reasonable location and that would result in huge expenditure and further segregation at a time when talent, educational quality, and monetary resources are stretched.

    The issue is NOT being able to walk to school – it's building strong communities that are thriving on all levels and providing education for our kids (ALL of our kids) that builds strong minds and leaders who prioritize peace, collaboration, and creative, intellectual pursuits that build communities locally and on a worldwide scale.

    The 5th ward kids should NOT be segmented across 8-9 of our schools, nor should we think that the segregation resulting from building a new school in the 5th ward will solve the educational and social challenges in Evanston. Keep up the dialogue and debate – we haven't figured it out yet.

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