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D65 settles bilingual placement issues

After more than a dozen hours of discussion and community input, the District 65 School Board made decisions for the long-term placement of the two-way immersion bilingual education program Monday night.

After more than a dozen hours of discussion and community input, the District 65 School Board made decisions for the long-term placement of the two-way immersion bilingual education program Monday night.

The Board’s major decisions revolved around three schools: Willard, Washington and Walker.

  • As the administration recommended, Willard School will keep a two-way immersion strand for the north side of Evanston.
  • But the Board voted to keep two strands at Washington School, rejecting an administration proposal to cut one strand there.
  • And it voted to eliminate the bilinqual program at Walker School and disperse its kindergarten students in the program to nearby schools next year.

In addition, Superintendent Hardy Murphy announced the district has received final scores on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test and that every school met the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act except Chute School, which narrowly missed the reading goal for children with disabilities.

He said the district will file a formal appeal with the state about the Chute results.

After more than two hours of discussion and public comment, the board rejected, on a 4-3 vote, the administration’s proposal for six strands of the two-way immersion program at six schools.

Washington School

The two-way immersion program at Washington School currently includes two strands of kindergarten through 5th grade students but the administration had proposed eliminating one of these strands over time by reducing the number of incoming two-way kindergartens to one classroom instead of two.

While board members agreed that enrollment projections supported maintaining six strands rather than seven, the board rejected the administration’s proposal for those placements, citing the need for stability at Washington School by keeping two strands of the program there.

But Washington will see changes in the selection process for incoming kindergartners who are English dominant.

One kindergarten classroom at Washington next fall will utilize the standard selection process for the two-way immersion program which gives first priority to siblings of students already in the program and second priority to students in the neighborhood.

But the English-speaking students in the other classroom would be selected from applications district-wide.

Willard School

For the third time in six weeks, many Willard parents addressed the board on whether the bilingual program should remain at Willard after this school year.

Some Willard parents questioned whether the school has the space to accommodate a full strand of TWI.

Doug Hood, a parent of two children at Willard, said that even though he likes having the two-way immersion program there, he believes the school would need to have more rooms to use as homeroom classrooms to accommodate the program from kindergarten through fifth grade.

He said that the “fairest thing” the board could do is re-establish a school in the 5th Ward but he said that based on political and budgetary concerns, it would also be the hardest decision to make.

Walker School

After the board voted to keep two strands at Washington and concluded that only six strands are needed overall, the board needed find a strand to cut.

Board member Mary Rita Luecke said most of the students in the two-way immersion kindergarten classroom at Walker School, located at Davis Street and Central Park Ave. in Skokie, lived east of McCormick Boulevard and south of Dempster Street.

Board member Julie Chernoff said that all parents in the kindergartens created in this school were informed that placements at the particular schools were temporary and subject to the board’s decision on permanent placement of the program.
The board voted 5 in favor, 1 opposed and 1 present to keep the strand at Willard and eliminate the strand at Walker.

Oakton and the escrow strand

The administration had proposed what it called an escrow strand at Washington School. That way, if enrollment dictated that a seventh kindergarten classroom was needed for a particular school year, it would be located at Washington.

With the board voting to place two strands at Washington School, it decided to place the escrow strand at Oakton School.

The attendance area for Oakton School has one of the largest number of native Spanish-speaking students in the district.

Board members and the administration agreed that there would be at least two classrooms available for what is also referred to as a "bubble" class which is needed to accommodate incoming kindergarten classes that are larger than anticipated.

ISAT Results 

Earlier this fall, the district released preliminary information from the state on the results of the Illinois Standard Achievement Tests.

Monday Supt. Murphy announced that the results can now be regarded as final and all schools reached the Annual Yearly Progress goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act except for one demographic group at one school in one academic area.

He said students with disabilities at Chute Middle School “came within a hair” of meeting the goal and the administration will file a formal appeal of that result with the state when that process begins.  Supt. Murphy said that Chute is “up significantly in all other categories.”

He said results for individual schools and individual students will not be distributed by the state until January.

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