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Evanston board faces ‘what now’ after referendum defeat

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The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board meets tonight to begin to plan how to handle its financial wants and enrollment demands now that voters have rejected a $48 million construction bond issue.

The board, which has a list of capital improvement wants and needs for existing buildings totalling some $140 million and only $24 million in anticipated bond funds to pay for them over the next 20 years, nonetheless sought voter approval to build a new elementary school and additions to middle schools.

Now that voters have said no, by a 55 to 45 percent margin, the board has to decide whether to handle the anticipated enrollment growth that largely drove the refendum campaign by increasing class sizes, by redistricting, by adjusting spending priorities, or by coming up with a new referendum proposal.

The projects on the district's wish list for existing buildings range from $25 million to repair the roofs on the district's 17 buildings to $24 million to air condition all the schools.

The air conditioning project might appear to be a luxury, but it would also open up the possibility of operating the schools year round, which could be yet another way to solve the anticipated enrollment crunch.

The school district now caps class sizes at 23 for kindergarten, 25 for grades 1 and 2, 26 for grade 3, 27 for grades 4 and 5 and 30 for grades 6 through 8.

Last fall the school administration said that increasing class sizes at Lincolnwood Elementary by one or two students could solve the space crunch there

And increasing the target class size at Haven and Nichols middle schools to 26 students — still under the district's guidelines — and repurposing some existing spaces for classroom use could handle the space crunch at those schools.

Most of the district's other schools are not projected to exceed their existing capacity levels in the near term.

The district's own projections show enrollment growth of about 3 percent over the next five years, while the mid-range projection of a consultant hired by the district anticipates a 10 percent enrollment increase during the same period.

The board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the administration building at 1500 McDaniel Ave.

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