It began blandly enough, with members of the Finance Committee of Evanston/Skokie School District 65 discussing the arcane agenda item, “Space Capacity Options,” at their meeting Thursday evening.

Mostly they talked about several ways to relieve space pressures at Dewey and Willard schools.

It began blandly enough, with members of the Finance Committee of Evanston/Skokie School District 65 discussing the arcane agenda item, “Space Capacity Options,” at their meeting Thursday evening.

Mostly they talked about several ways to relieve space pressures at Dewey and Willard schools.

But before the meeting ended, committee members were talking about how to set up a referendum committee to sell the idea to voters of financing construction of a new school in the central core of Evanston.

A referendum would be required to sell bonds to obtain the funds to construct the school.

Board President Keith Terry reminded the committee that this was just the beginning of a discussion that would continue in earnest at Monday’s meeting of the full Board, where the issue labeled “Long-Term Planning to Address School Space Concerns” is item No. 20 on the agenda and that the only decision likely to come out of that meeting will be a definition of the process for moving forward with ideas for addressing the space capacity issues.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy denied that the staff was pushing the new-school option. “All we’re doing is presenting the facts,” he insisted.

He said a new school would be instrumental in dealing with the space problems at the district’s existing schools. He warned, however, that the redistricting of attendance lines that would result from bringing a new school on stream never fails to rile up the district’s parents.

And committee member Andrew Pigozzi, an architect, said that even if a new school were constructed, a great deal of work would be required to bring the existing schools “into the 21st Century.”

One question that was never answered by staff members was posed by the committee’s chair, Katie Bailey: “If we have fewer students now than we did in 1999, why do we need to add more capacity?”

Monday’s Board meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave.

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. Our elected officials are out of touch and out of credit

    Water rates rising 10 percent. There’s a new library tax created by an unelected board without any public hearings. The duplicative Township Assessor’s Office gets a two-fold budget increase.

    And voila, the school district gets in the spending free-for-all with serious talks of a new school.

    I’d love to know why our wise school board even considers that we need to go out for bonds to build a new school when there are less D65 students now  than 10 years ago? Was there no talk about building additions to Willard and Dewey? These schools are on a large lot and it wouldn’t be too hard.

    Nope. Keith Terry and Jerome Summers I believe are in the crowd that wants to see an elementary school somewhere near the site where the D65 administration office now is. That school closed down because of racial desegregation. So how would an elementary school near that  site exactly work?

    This is a time to close the Township Office, consolidate school districts, close one of two Evanston Fire Stations on Central Street  and so on. These hard economic times that show no signs of recovery call for difficult decisions that will make a significant impact  for a leaner operating budget that our elected officials must make. Instead we see our elected officials:

    1) sit idly by as an unelected Library Board creates a new tax, circumventing budget cuts.

    2) raise water rates by 10 percent

    3) look to give the 1817 Church Building to someone else after buying it for $100,000 and giving $200,000 and the building to a group to build a museum that was never built all the while the $200,000 disappears.

    4) purchase two buildings adjacent to 1817 Church that never did sell on the open market and which the city had no immediate plans on what to do with the buildings – they just bought it. Maybe they will give those buildings away, too. Maybe the city is getting in the business of buying buildings and giving them away.

    5) pass over experienced and well-seasoned principals and hire two elementary school principals with a total of one year experience as principal. That one year was as interim principal.

    6) propose to raise income taxes by 33 percent

    7) publicly asks for bids to build windmills on Lake Michigan. Yes, windmills.

    6)  the City Council gave themselves a 20 percent pay raise in 2008.

    There’s more but that’s enough to choke…er…chew on.

  2. Really? A new school?

    In an age when the state isn’t paying its bills and when we have fewer students than we did 10 years ago, why would we be asking people to pay more money for a new school?  I’m as left-wing and education-minded as anyone, but my tax bill on my modest house is now $13,000.  I don’t see how I can vote for anything that might add to my over $1000/mo. bill for living in Evanston!

  3. Great Idea

    Crowded schools mean that more space should be provided for students.  

    How about starting by converting the D65 building into an actual school?  Move the administrators to an office building somewhere.  The D65 admin building is beautiful and could be used immediately as a magnet school.



    1. D65 Admin Building

      The D65 Admin building is a school.  The first floor is for PreK programs.  There are a couple of hundred kids there.

    2. This is a great idea!  Ya

      This is a great idea!  Ya know, they built the JEH building to be used for Early Childhood classrooms and then the administration also moved in……..Once built, the Early Childhood classrooms seemed like an afterthought!

  4. Options for Space Planning

    I’m at the school board meeting right now (Aug 16th, 7:15 pm), and there are a few options being presented to deal with the space issues at Dewey & Willard. The last option in the packet is the creation of what is termed a "Central Core" school. The packet contains three options for potential expansion at Dewey, one for Willard, and the new school concept.

    I know that a few board members have had the new school concept on their own agendas for some time. I don’t think that’s the way to go. First of all, we need the space for students now — not in three or four years, when it’s likely that we will experience another population shift. A new school means not only a LOT of money — $13m is the estimation but we all know how estimations shift — but complete redistricting and, most likely, the eventual "neighborhood segregation" that will mess up the blessing of diversity that most of our schools currently have.

    I am cautiously hopeful that the board will make the best possible decision to help ease the crowding at the two schools indicated, but frankly, the only thing the community can do if they don’t like the decisions being made by the school board is to cultivate new, qualified candidates for the next election.

  5. too late?

    Probably too late, but the resolution indicates that nobody has circulated a petition requiring the bonds being issued with a referendum to be subject to one.  Looks like a way to stop bond issuance for the smaller options if enough petitions can be circulated. 


  6. Build a new school with birth rates on the decline?

    Somebody on the School Board should do a little demographic research.  While the numbers for the latest year are not available yet, the birth rate is declining in many states due to the economic recession.  One of the leaders in birth rate decline is the state of Illinois.  Go back to the recession in the 1970s and the great depression and you see the same trends.  When people can’t afford their taxes, mortgage, rent, or food; they tend not to take on the financial burden of having more children.  NPR had a great story on this phenomenon yesterday.  Let’s see…. build it and they will be born?

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