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The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 is concerned about rising enrollments at Lincoln Elementary School in southeast Evanston, where a number of new housing units are contributing to potential overcrowding.

The school, located at Forest Avenue and Main Street, happens to be on one of the smaller plots of land in the district, and the bulk of its playground consists of a retention pond for rainwater runoff.

The district board’s Finance Committee devoted a major portion of its meeting Monday night to a discussion with parents about various options, “none of which is great,” according to Assistant Superintendent John Price.

While the enrollment for the entire district, including 19 elementary, middle schools, magnet schools, and specialized facilities, increased by a modest 70 students this year, some 51 of that increase occurred at Lincoln, Price said.

Of the district’s 10 elementary schools, Lincoln went from the third largest last year, at 521 students, to the largest this year, at 572.

Parents have complained to the board in the past that the increased enrollment is putting great pressure on the common areas, such as the lunch and recreational facilities, although class sizes remain within the district’s guidelines.

“Too many students within a school building,” Price wrote, “can create an unproductive and unsafe educational environment, but all of the alternatives considered…cause some level of disruption to the school community.”

Additional construction, he said, is not considered a viable option at this time.

Option 1 is called “cap and transfer,” whereby the district sets a maximum size for the school and transfers all subsequent students to other district schools that have sufficient capacity to absorb them. The administration recommends a cap of 635 students at the school before that option is implemented.

Option 2 is to encourage more students to accept a voluntary transfer to one of the district’s two magnet schools—Bessie Rhodes and King Arts.

Option 3 is to transfer students to any other elementary school in the district with available space at the desired grade level.

Option 4 is to convert existing non-classroom space to an additional homeroom.

“It is our recommendation,” said Price, “that the drama room be converted to make one additional space for a homeroom for next year. This room is adjacent to other classroom spaces and is identical to other homeroom classes at the school.”

While he admitted that drama is a valued program in the school, Price said this option “creates the smallest disruption to students.”

Option 5 calls for what are called “programmatic changes.”  For example, if the school’s program for English language learners were moved to another district school, Lincoln would not have to accept these students from other schools’ boundaries.

Option 6 would recreate the boundaries for all district schools to even out the enrollments.

“This option is not being recommended at this time,” Price said, “because of the need for community engagement and the significant disruption to the community that boundary changes would cause.”

While the options were discussed Monday night by the Finance Committee, no action was taken on any of them, but the issue was elevated higher on the board’s watch list for future action.

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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9 Comments

  1. Option 6 makes most sense

    It is past time for D65 to consider redistricting. After the failed Ward 5 school referendum, the board should have done something to redraw boundaries to remove the "Willard Island" and rationalize school enrollments. Wasn't Haven also having an overcrowding problem at one point?

    Yes, it will be disruptive, there will be community concerns. But someone needs to take a hard look at the housing data, including the impact of new construction on school enrollments, and do something to fix the problem not just now, but for the future.

    1. Would Option 6 be against District 65 policy?

      I thought that District 65 did not want to have a racial balance of any one race greater than 60%, hence the reason for no school in the 5th Ward since the late 1960's.  Has this policy changed?

      1. Policy

        Your question appears to be based on a premise that any redistricting plan would result in having more than 60 percent of some school's enrollment be of a single racial group.

        That may or may not be a valid assumption — given changes in the distribution of Evanston residents by race and ethnicity since the late 1960s.

        Presumably before the school board chose to go down the "option 6" path — which it has not yet done — it would address the issue of whether to change the policy to which you refer.

        — Bill

        1. Can’t use race as a criterion

          US supreme court case a couple of years ago struck down using race as a selection criterion, so there is no longer a legal way to enforce the 60% cap.

           

  2. Not Critical

    Given the numbers given in the artical, this does not seem to be a critical problem. They certainly do not need to build new schools. If they are trying to save money, they can always have 1 – 8 or k – 8 schools. They would be able to have  more neighborhood schools. Families with 3 or 4 kids would be happier.

    Give it a shot. You'll thank me later.

  3. It’s time to consolidate D65 and D202!

    The enrollment of the entire D65 district was a "modest 70" increase. SInce most of it happened at Lincoln the obvious solution is to change the boundaries for LIncoln. I don't see that as an option. I wonder how many Lincoln students really live in Chicago since that school is closest to the Chicago border.

    Here's what I think is happening behind the scenes. D65 and D202 admins know that a Robin Hood bill supported by our own elected representatives will likely pass and it would take away state funds going to D65 and D202 and give it to poorer school districts. That means less money for our school districts, which means school board administrators will be faced with a revenue shortfall.

    In anticipation of that shortfall a campaign has been launched that D65 needs more space and therefore more money. I just received a phone survey paid by D65 that asked if I would support "raising the property tax limit" and a capital improvement voter referendum among other things.

    Folks, us property taxpayers are about to be slammed with either another huge tax increase or a capital improvement referendum or both. It's time to curb the lucrative teacher raises and cut adminsistrative fat from these school districts.

    It's also time we start talking openly and honestly about school consolidation. So how about it Evanston?

    1. District 65/202 Consolidation only by Voter Referendum
      I concur that District 65 and 202 should be consolidated for financial and educational reasons. But this referendum will have to come from a parent/citizen grass root effort. Both School Boards would have to vote to approve a consolidation referendum to be placed on the ballot and that is not happening. If I recall when this issue has come up during the campaigns or at District 65/202 Board meetings, the idea has been roundly dismissed or just ignored.

      If there is a process where District citizens can petition to get a referendum on the ballot by circumventing the School Boards that will be the only way. It is regrettable that with SB16 pending passage in the Illinois General Assembly that our School Boards first reaction is to raise taxes and not find other substantive ways to fill the budget gap.

      1. There is a way

        There is a way to pull this off but it might take a couple of election cycles. At the next school board election, campaign to elect only candidates that make school consolidation the number one thing to do. It is time for the school boards to respect the taxpayers.

    2. Not that close

      Al – I don't mean to argue your concern and theory. Chicago students might very well be at Lincoln. However, it is not our school closest to Chicago. Both Dawes and Oakton are closer. They are both located on Oakton, a brisk 5 minute walk from Howard.  

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