District 65 school board members have scheduled a special meeting next month to consider rearranging attendance boundaries to deal with overcrowding at Willard School.

Board member Mary Rita Luecke said concerns about students who have been bused to the northwest Evanston school for decades, since the closure of the predominantly black Foster School in the 5th Ward, need to be addressed.

“This is an area for which there’s been a historical hurt that hasn’t been resolved,” Luecke said.

Board member Katie Bailey said she’s also concerned about potential overcrowding at the Bessie Rhodes magnet school with its increasingly popular technology focus.

“We can’t look at it alone. It has to be tied,” Bailey said.

But member Bonnie Lockhart said, “I see it as a very separate issue. Fifth Ward students are being pulled out of their area” and taken to Willard.

Willard is the only neighborhood school in the district that has discontinous attendance area boundaries.

In addition to serving most of northwest Evanston, it also serves a one-tenth square mile area in a portion of Evanston’s west side, nearly a mile southeast of the rest of the school’s zone.

Board members disagreed about whether redistricting changes could be approved in time to take effect this fall, but agreed to schedule the discussion for Tuesday evening, Jan. 6.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. d65 redistricting proposal
    Chute Middle School also buses kids – ever since Skiles was closed to house King Lab. Over one third of Chute’s population can not walk to school as they live on the Skokie side of the canal.

  2. More details/all sacred cows are equal
    You do not tell where students in the “one-tenth square mile area in a portion of Evanston’s west side” would attend school. The closest school to them geographically would be Dewey. If they go to Dewey, that feeds to Nichols, which is farther from home for them than Haven.

    While Willard is the only D65 school that has a non-contiguous attendance area, several other schools have rather gerrymandered attendance areas, including Dewey and Orrington. Students at these schools–many of them white–are bused to school.

    Willard was rated one of the top 50 schools in Illinois by the Chicago Sun Times. If families will forgo attending a top 50 school in favor of attending a neighborhood school, then our school board had better be considering turning our magnet schools into neighborhood schools, opening a fifth ward school, closing some other building and dumping the 60 percent guideline.

    While they’re at it, they might take a hard look at the ACC and TWI programs.

    Don’t make this yet another piecemeal, partisan approach to education in Evanston. Either put everyone’s sacred cow on the table at once, or no one’s.

    1. I agree with most
      I agree that it is time to redistrict everywhere. And that the discussion should include twi and acc.

      However where I disagree is the idea of turning the magnets into neighborhood schools. Instead I think there should be conversation about MORE magnet schools – like a language academy to house all of twi. Combining resources for twi makes sense as does a natural (size of building) limit to the size of the program.

      One of the (in my opinion, many) ways district 65 is superior to other districts north is that it offers choice to parents with our magnet schools. Let’s enhance this positive as we move forward.

      1. Charters, not magnets
        What about creating charter schools instead of magnet schools? That would free them from the dead hand of D65 and allow them to do some *real* education!

  3. d65 redistricting proposal
    Interesting idea. I like it. At the Smith Park neighbors block party this summer, some of us were talking about the lack of neighborhood cohesion, attributing it in part to the fact that the neighborhood children within our small area are sent to 3 different elementary schools–Willard, Dewey, and Orrington. Dewey really should be our neighborhood school, but it too is getting crowded.

  4. D65 Redistricting Proposal
    Maybe it is time to look at whether busing kids away from their neighborhood for school has had a positive or negative impact.

  5. Busing and time
    More parents might be able to drive or walk their kids to school if the schools started at a reasonable hour. How many parents put their kids on a school bus at 8 or 8:15 to get them to school by 9, so that the parent can go to work? The elementary schools should start at 8 or 8:20 and the middle (and magnet) schools should start later, since many of those kids can get themselves to school.

    I agree with the previous poster – let’s put all the programs on the table and have a holistic discussion of issues: neighborhood schools, magnet schools, school hours, busing, class sizes, TWI and ACC, etc. It is time to STOP making piecemeal decisions and start having a big picture view.

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