After months of considering numerous scenarios for dealing with projected increases in enrollments, the Evanston/Skokie District 65 Board of Education is scheduled to make a decision tonight, knowing in advance that a large number of voters will disagree with whatever they decide to do.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy will recommend “opening a new K-5 school in the central core and adding or converting space at the middle schools.”

Those who agree with his recommendation will say that it not only will satisfy projected space needs but that it will also right a wrong that was imposed upon an economically deprived neighborhood that lost its only public school some four decades ago, forcing its students to be bused to a number of outlying schools.

The proposed boundaries for the new school include the areas marked 1, 2A, 2B and 3 on this map. The current attendance area schools for those students include Kingsley, Lincolnwood, Orrington and Willard.

Those who disagree will say that taxpayers are already faced with increased taxes for city government, that a significant number of homes are already worth less than the amount of their mortgages, and that changes can be made gradually to accommodate more students without significantly increasing class sizes and/or inconveniencing parents through redistricting.

Besides, with little land available for residential development, the student census may decline in the future, leaving the district with a surplus of space.

Even if the board accepts the recommendation for a kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school, there are a number of scenarios the board needs to consider, including whether to build the school for two sections for each class, for a total of 275 students, or three sections per class, for a total of 415 students.

Each scenario has its own set of plusses and minuses for board consideration, as well as varying effects on other schools in the district. The bottom line, however, is that a new school, plus required additions at middle schools, would likely require a referendum in a range of 35 to 38 million dollars.

The district’s chief financial officer, Dr. Mary Brown, estimates that the referendum cost for the owner of a median valued home ($285,000) would range from $69 to $73 per year for 20 years. The deadline for the board to decide on a referendum amount would be Dec. 19 in order to place it on the March primary election ballot.

Before the board meets at 7 p.m. tonight, it will hold the last of three open forums for the public to state their views. The comment period is scheduled from 6 to 7 p.m. at the district headquarters, 1500 McDaniel Ave.

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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  1. change is unavoidable

    having moved my children from (a local) private school to public school – due to the prohibitive costs (on top of my property taxes), I knew that many others would be faced with a simular decision. We also believed that once this 'shift' started taking hold with others, there would be no room for the amount of children Evanston needs to serve. I had brought this up at a school board meeting over 4 years ago and my concerns were dismissed by Dr. Murphy. It is now time for us to seriously consider merging both district 65 and 202. While this will cut some jobs others will receive pay increases, but combining the resourcesand reducing redundancy will soften the blow (in addition to helping famlies schedule) with children in both 65 and 202. It appears that Dr. Murphy's most important interests are not our children but his continued tenure.

    1. Great Idea

      This was and is a great idea. It has been brought up many time before but has been dismissed by the school boards and the teacher unions. I guess it would lower school costs by combining positions.

      If the Evanston voters were given a choice, this would certainly pass. Overhead would be reduced by at least 15 %, facilities could be shared, and taxes would go down.

    2. Merge 65 and 202

      Amen to  merging 65 and 202!

      Why a single town needs two school boards–especially two that play the blame game non-stop–is beyond me. It's equally non-sensical that high school teachers in our fair city are paid more than K-8 teachers. We can scale up to salary parity over time.

      Eric WItherspoon has experience as a superintendent of a K-12 district. Surely Dr. Murphy can be prodded to retire, and we can move forward with having one school district for Evanston kids.

  2. Schools by Ward

    For all the talk of the 5th ward getting a school, it looks like it is not the most mis-represented.

    One does not need a Voronoi diagram to see that something is wrong with the idea  that the 5th should be the first to get a school.  The first ward has none and is further from other schools than the fifth.

    Eye balling it, it looks like if schools are to be changed, the lower quarter of the fourth is over represented, esp. if the lower ninth is considered.   Thus these two could probably be moved up to the northern part of the first ward to give them representation.The middle second ward also seems under represented. 

    In any event the fifth does not seem to be the one to consider before these others.

  3. King Lab — the new school in Evanston’s “central core”

    King Lab is right there — just south of the school administration building.  Let's make it the new school for the "central core."

    The enrollment projections are trumped up to give an excuse to build yet another school.  I have not spoken to a single parent of a child under five who plans to send their child to an Evanston public school.  Relying on birth date from the local hospitals is nonsensical. 

    Making King Lab the neighborhood school for this area of Evanston, as well as some limited redistricting, would provide what those advocating for a school in this area, even out attendance at the schools and keep taxpayers from taking a major hit to fund building then fund staffing of a brand new school. 

    All those in favor, say aye.

  4. District 65 leadership?

    In the last week I attended two district 65 board meetings, I haven't been to one of their meetings in years, things don't appear to be changing for the better. 

    The most troubling thing I heard last night is this district may need to go to the voters to get money to keep the district operating without laying off a large number of teachers.  While Hardy tried to down play this along with saying he can operate the new school with little if any operating budget increase, this is the same insane politics Wally plays at the city. ( ie. 311, capital etc. )

    The board better get its act together, it is more important to have teachers and support staff, than building a new school which the district's own data is not supporting.  The appears to be several sets of enrollment data and one set shows the district is no where near capacity. That is 7033 kids by 2015, when my children were there years ago it was about 7,200.

    We had two city council members coming to district's meeting in support of the new school, these people need to focus on thier own jobs, given Wally is increasing the city budget by 8% this year, these council members better come up with a better answer than a 15% budget increase in 2013!

    1. District 65 Board Leadership? Lost cause

      There is no leadership by the current Board.  They are sheep who blindly follow whatever nonsense Dr. Murphy puts in front of them.  All the while, ignoring the cost and the District's real problems.

      Many of our current schools have a significant number of students who are failing.  Why doesn't the District 65 School Board focus on that problem of "social justice" as many of the children who are failing are impoverished children who live here?

      I thought that the Afro-centric Curriculum program now at Oakton School was the solution to all of these "social justice" problems.  Guess it's lackluster academic results, with the teachers operating largely as social workers, just proves that this Superintendent and this Board are clueless on how to help struggling students achieve.

      Building this school and staffing it will not do one thing to help one student achieve.  Same crummy approach, different building.  What are we getting for millions of dollars added to our property taxes?  And don't tell me "social justice" because that concept will not help any child read at grade level or be ready for high school.

      Be ready for an all-out battle on the huge cost of building then staffing a new school.  And be ready for the name calling if you oppose this boondoggle.  Maybe I can find someone who will buy my house so that I can move someplace where the schools are run by practical people who are focused on student achievement and return on investment to taxpayers, not expensive emotional pablum like this unneeded and expensive school.


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