District 65 Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Faced with public criticism over a lack of transparency, District 65 superintendent Devon Horton said Monday night that the school system will release details on school repairs before the summer.

Horton told the Board of Education on Monday night that “health, life and safety measures” will be tackled first, followed by other “building envelope” repairs.

In a couple of years, he added, the nicer “whistles and bells” inside schools will be addressed.

Last year, a consultant’s Master Facilties Plan said District 65’s 18 buildings had $189 million worth of needed repairs.

Chief Financial Officer Raphael Obafemi told the board Monday that with inflation, the price tag is now “north of $200 million.”

At a school board committee meeting last week, a couple of parents from King Arts, including the PTA president, pressed the board on when repairs will be made.

Horton, who was in Georgia at the time being hired for the DeKalb County Schools superintendency, said “I didn’t get a chance to attend last week’s” committee session, but said “we love to hear from the community about challenges and issues with the Master Facilities Plan.”

He also indicated that one reason the repair details have not come out yet is that “we’ve been dealing with a really large project, the 5th Ward School,” which took up a lot of staff time and effort.

There is no way District 65 can pay for all the repairs at once. In fact, the Master Facilities consultant gave a 20-year timeline.

Obafemi said District 65 plans to restructure a couple of bond issues, saving about $6 million in lower interest rates over two years. That money will go towards building fix-ups.

Obafemi said, “We have to get creative with ways to address the facilities repair needs,” and restructuring the bonds without extending the payoff time is a way to do just that.

District 65 has done similar bond restructuring in the past few years. Board member Soo La Kim noted that some of the money helped install LED lighting in school buildings, which is already starting to pay off with lower energy bills.

Obafemi noted that restructuring bonds is “really the only option now. We don’t have the ability to issue any bonds until the late 2030s,” because the district is at its bonded debt limit.

Board member Joey Hailpern noted that the current board inherited that situation from previous boards “and their investment strategies at the time.”

This was Horton’s first District 65 board meeting since the DeKalb school board voted to hire him, but other than Horton’s brief mention of not being at the D65 committee session last week, there was no discussion of his pending departure.

Horton starts in DeKalb County on July 1.

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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  1. To recap: we will have a shiny, first class, green 5th Ward School. Children attending every other school in Evanston will occupy half empty, decrepit buildings which will not be brought up to date during the time they attend District 65 schools. And if you believe that this collection of clowns will get the new building up on budget and that there will be money left to fix existing buildings after negotiations with the teachers and every other pet project, you are kidding yourselves.

  2. This is totally insane. How is there enough money for a new school but not enough money to repair chipping paint, old carpet, old pipes, broken HVAC, and environmental issues at the current schools?

    1. There’s no virtual signaling and superintendent-resume padding opportunities for doing the day-to-day requirements of the job. Of course, since Evanston voted for “more of this” in their board decisions, don’t expect anything to get better.

  3. Although repairs are important, getting back to basics in the education of kids is much more so. Memorizing 38 different largely made-up genders is not education. Math, science, reading and great literature is.

    1. Karen, I bet you didn’t vote in the last election, or even live in this district. Of all the things to call out this district for, no one is memorizing 38 made up genders. No one is memorizing anything. Haven’t you seen the academic (lack of ) progress over the past few years?

      1. I been saying for the last three years this district needs a overhaul it’s time to clean house

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