While it may be a few years and multiple millions of dollars away, a school in Evanston’s 5th Ward is getting another push from the District 65 administration.

The Evanston/Skokie School District is asking for community volunteers for a Student Assignment and Planning Advisory Committee, as the 7,300-student system looks to redraw school attendance boundaries.

Among the purposes of the committee, according to its charter, is to “Determine how to open a 5th ward school in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Of course, “fiscally responsible” is the key, because the district faces a growing budget deficit over the next few years, and besides looking at school boundary lines, budget cuts will also be needed.

Plus, opening a new school would likely require closing another. School Board Finance Chair Joey Hailpern made that observation in a recent board meeting, although there has been no discussion of what school, if any, might be shuttered.

The 5th Ward has been without a school for more than 40 years. The predominantly Black student population has been bused to schools in other parts of town, following desegregation of Evanston schools.

In a memo to the community, Superintendent Devon Horton says District 65 is reviewing attendance zones “in order to modernize our district structure and address historic inequities that continue to most significantly impact students of color.” Besides possibly changing attendance lines, Horton also says the review process may involve “reconsideration of a more equitable selection process for magnet schools and programs, and establishing a local school in the Fifth Ward.”

Besides advising the Board of Education on those issues, the advisory committee would also “Provide impartial recommendations suited to dismantle systemic racism.”

The study will take two years. No decisions will be made until the review is finished. The Board of Education has final say. The committee’s role is just advisory.

The District has previously stated the committee will have approximately 25 members. A sign-up form is available on the District’s website.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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