The school board stopped short of merging the attendance preference areas for the King Arts and Bessie Rhodes schools in Evanston and Skokie at its meeting this week.
The current policy allocates 20 percent of new admissions to Dr. Bessie Rhodes magnet school and 20 percent of new admissions to King Lab school to students living within specific attendance areas of each school.
For the current school year, 24 percent of kindergartners admitted to Rhodes live in the current preference area, which is located north of Church Street, while only 16 percent of kindergartners admitted to King live in its current preference area, located south of Church.
The administration proposed that the policy be changed to give students create one preference area from which both magnet schools would draw 20 percent of their students.
The proposal was approved by the board’s policy committee at its meeting on April 30.
A memo supporting the recommendation explained that the Bessie Rhodes preference area represented a much larger pool of prospective students than the King Arts area and meeting the goal of placing 20 percent of students in King Arts from the King Arts preference area had proved difficult. The combined preference area consists of nearly 95 percent persons of color.
The memo noted that stakeholders from the preference area were not consulted because of time constraints since the administration wanted to implement the changes for the coming year and admissions decisions must be made later this month.
Administrator Peter Godard said the change would allow families in both preference areas more choice and would not adversely affect any group since King Arts classes are not full.
Board member Candance Chow challenged the notion that the change would not affect students in the King Arts preference area and expressed concern that the parents had not been consulted and probably didn’t know about the proposed change.
After some discussion, the board amended the policy to state that the goal is that 20 percent of incoming students for King Arts and Bessie Rhodes come from their respective preference areas and that preference be given to students from the other magnet school’s preference area only if the 20 percent goal has not been reached.
The other two recommendations were accepted:
- Siblings of students currently enrolled in Bessie Rhodes be admitted before other students
- Criteria be established to allow students to transfer into grades 1-5 of Bessie Rhodes if they have prior bilingual class experience
In other business, the board re-elected Sunith Kartha as president and Anya Tanyavutti as vice president for one-year terms.