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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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

  1. New referendum for the arts (PLEASE)

    I will gladly have my taxes raised to address district needs and also to ensure that the arts are supported. Last week I heard that art, music, and other "specials" teachers were being cut. This should not happen!

    1. Roll up the shirt sleeves

      I also would like to see the arts saved.  However instead of saying “please raise my taxes," why not challenge the board to find ways to SAVE money in other places in order to keep them?  I have a feeling there are other people out there that in the recent past have made more with less within their households; why can’t D65 do that?  Honestly, I can't afford to pay any more in taxes than I do.  The middle class is getting killed in this city!   I also don't want anyone else to subsidize my family!!!  

      I believe this is why people are so upset. The board is trying to take away things that are dear to us without coming up with any ideas outside of let’s just raise your taxes.  It's time to roll up the shirt sleeves and start making smart decisions for the sake of our children.  Stop killing the middle class with the same old "let’s just raise taxes."

  2. A clear picture for Evanston’s leaders

    Neighbors and Friends:

    The recent election results in Evanston were quite interesting, and if taken as a whole, paint a fairly clear picture for Evanston’s leadership.  

    A clear message of economic responsibility has come through:   Dissolve the Township (yes – financial and spending savings); Energy Bidding (yes – possible energy savings via competition); and School Referendum (no – more increased taxes).   While each of these initiatives has its own clear champions, if you look at the total message from the voters, the issues are pretty clear.  Enough already in terms of mismanaged spending and continued increases in taxpayer contributions towards the solutions.

    Many that voted against the school initiative did so for reasons of economics, budget concerns, removal of resources from other schools that also need improvements, and more. 

    What we have here in Evanston is a budget problem – and investment in the schools that is frankly behind.  So the “no” vote was many times a vote for improving the schools and the infrastructure we have today – before bringing on new facilities.  

    District 65 needs to repair the roofs, the HVAC systems, the classroom technologies, the laboratories, the libraries, the lack of proper cafeterias in some schools, and more well before thinking of a new property.   It does feel like an ambition of wearing a tired thread suit but so wanting that new pair of leather shoes.  It just does not make economic or investment sense to build new when existing has clear needs.

    What is quite disturbing, however, is the tone of the debate regarding the new school initiative. Comments made by some strong supporters for the 5th Ward School at District 65 Board meetings, community forums, and other private one-on-one conversations have frankly become divisive and non-professional.   Verbatim comments such as “you voted against the school – you must be racist!”  are incorrect, inappropriate and immature.  They highlight a clear lack of listening and understanding of another person’s point of view.

    The conversation around what is best for the investment of the Evanston schools needs to improve towards a more adult, less inflammatory, and positive respect for differences of opinions. If it does not move towards a more open dialogue, then sadly the supporters of the new school initiative will have a significant barrier (lack of support)  to overcome due to their lack of inclusion of others' points of view.  

    Moving forward is something they clearly are striving for – but ironically are not seeing the division of their words.

    1. Bravo!

      Well said!  If there is one good thing that did come out of the referendum it is that it has opened the eyes of many Evanstonians about what exactly the Administration and Board are doing (or better said, NOT doing).

      Look for more participation in and scrutiny of Board/Admin activities.  Look for public calls for personal accountability.  The status quo clearly isn't working and putting lipstick on a pig don't make it a beauty queen.

      Change is coming- get involved and let's all see what taking a different tack can do for our kids.

  3. the Unions who don’t give a crap

    Are you kidding, Evanston does not have the best Art Program, all Schools don’t have Air Conditioning?
    We recent residents with Kids have the highest taxes in the country. Please give my children an arts program and the basic dignity of air conditioning. But wait, I pay more taxes than Chicago, Skokie, Wilmette, Glenview and the entire Northsore. Why is that?  These kids don’t even have a Skate Board park, Why is that?? OH, the Unions who don’t give a crap about my Kid. We are screwed for the short term but changes are coming!! The free ride is over on the tax payers’ expense. Please look at how Highland Park is being real about these issues.

    1. Skate park

      yeah — no skate park — join POSSE on facebook — parents of shredding skaters evanston.  Today we are meeting with some police.  Step one is to normalize skater relations with police and step 2 is to get a skatepark (with a bowl) in Evanston.

  4. Time to consolidate D65 and D202!!!!

    The D65 and D202 school boards should be focused on consolidation.

    I am sure the vast majority of Evanston residents would support it. We don't need ONE school district for ONE school (Evanston High School). Combine D202 and D65 into one school district!

    Let the voters decide!

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