Redrawing school attendance boundaries was the topic of a community meeting Saturday in which residents were not allowed to ask any questions.

It was the second in a series of such online sessions hosted by consultants for Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

Under the format imposed by the consultants, residents were not allowed to ask any questions or challenge any of the data or conclusions the consultants presented.

Diversity consultant Gilo Logan told participants that,  given patterns of residential segregation in Evanston, “having both truly diverse schools and neighborhood schools is not realistic.”

He also said that creating a new school in the 5th Ward – a priority identified by the School Board – “will likely decrease the racial diversity in many of the existing schools” because black students in the 5th Ward now are being bused to create diversity in schools elsewhere in the city.

Asked to use the text-based Thought Exchange software program to indicate whether they placed a higher priority on diversity or neighborhood schools, most of the 50 participants in the session wrote that “equitable access to neighborhood schools” was more important to them than student diversity.

However, one writer said the focus by the consultants on ward boundaries as a framework for determining what is a “neighborhood” was misleading.

That resident offered as an example an assertion that the 7th Ward was gerrymandered to dilute the voting impact of Northwestern University students.

This chart, prepared by Evanston Now from data presented during the online meeting, shows, in the “Attendance Area Population” tab, how enrollment and the district’s 10 K-5 attendance area schools would be distributed among different racial and ethnic groups if all the students who lived in an attendance district attended that school.

Switching to the “School Enrollment” tab shows what the actual distribution was for the 2019-20 school year at those 10 schools and the two district-wide magnet schools after students were redistributed by permissive transfers to attend the schools of their choice.

It appears from the data that only relatively modest changes in diversity levels would occur if a strictly neighborhood school attendance plan were imposed using the existing neighborhood school attendance area boundaries.

The online sessions continue this week with one at 7 p.m. Wednesday focused on neighborhood schools and one at 9:30 a.m. Saturday focused on magnet schools

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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3 Comments

  1. This seems seriously wrong. Evanston taxpayers should be aware that under the IL Open Meetings Act, “any person shall be permitted an opportunity to address public officials.” (See 5 ILCS 120/2/06(g))

    The OMA does not just apply to public bodies such as City Council or a school board. It applies to committees, subcommittees and advisory bodies.

  2. We came to Evanston because of the schools. We’re strongly considering private schools at present — at least for our repeatedly physically and emotionally abused black child who has been exposed to the incompetently administered schools in district 65. What a waste of tax dollars.

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