The City of Evanston’s Land Use Commission voted 5-2 late Wednesday to recommend City Council approval of zoning variations needed for District 65’s planned school at Foster Field.

The panel included nearly two dozen conditions with its approval at the end of the three-hour hearing, but none of them appeared likely to derail the new school project.

The two commission members who voted against the plans objected to the size of the building — which district officials said will have a capacity of 900 students.

“If the school was smaller, if the height was lower,” Commissioner Brian Johnson said, “then, in my opinion, it would meet the standards.”

Commissioner Kiril Mirintchev said he believes the school is needed and that the site at Simpson Street and Ashland Avenue was a good location, but that “the program for the school is too large.”

Mirintchev said the resulting design created unattractive corridors on both Simpson and Ashland.

School officials claim the new building is needed to end nearly a half century of busing students out of the neighborhood to integrate the district’s schools.

Cordogan Clark architect Alex Lopez.

Alex Lopez, an architect with Cordogan Clark, the designers of the planned school, said the building would create “a true campus, a beacon for the community.”

“The whole area is going to be alive and even more vibrant than it is now,” Lopez added.

He said the school would have between 39 and 43 classrooms. The first floor would include administrative offices and a band area and theater. A gymnasium would be located on the second floor.

Several neighbors expressed fears about parking and traffic congestion issues in the area, but a traffic consultant hired by the district said that, while there would be some congestion at pickup and drop-off times, the fact that most students should be able to walk to the building would minimize that.

The commission’s recommendation now goes to the City Council for final approval.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. I am confused by the District’s claim that congestion and traffic at the proposed new school would be mitigated because most of the 900 students attending would walk.
    Previously the District announced they would close the Bessie Rhodes school (formerly Timber Ridge in Skokie/Evanston) and relocate that whole population – principal, students, and staff – to the new school in the 5th ward. How would that population get to the new school? I don’t think they live walking distance to the new location.
    And what about after school and evening events? Parent/Teacher conferences, PTA meetings, music and drama performances, intramural sports etc? Where is playground space for 900 K-8 students?
    There are quite a few unasked and unanswered questions.

    1. As a parent of Bessie Rhodes students and a resident of the 5th ward, I would like to allay some of your concerns. I can confirm for you that a substantial portion of Bessie Rhodes students live in the 5th ward and thus a large proportion of the students and their families would have greater access to the new school than they do currently. Those who would require busing to the new School would genuinely be fewer than the current state of affairs. Does this mean that traffic won’t be affected? No. But while there will be some amount of increase, the decrease in buses traveling down the narrow streets of the 5th ward will be substantially less in the morning and early evening, offsetting that. Now, if you are worried that some Bessie Rhodes families won’t feel as ‘comfortable’ going to events at the new school in the 5th ward rather than Skokie, I would encourage you and others who share that concern to interrogate what that is actually about and whether it’s really about actual logistics of getting to and from the school or perhaps something else.

      Also, schools are major community hubs that provide essential community cohesion and access to resources. Some additional traffic congestion is arguably well worth the benefit that has been withheld from 5th ward residents for over half a century.

      And it’s entirely reasonable to think that traffic can and should be addressed through efforts to make the new school more easily and safely accessible via bicycle and foot traffic within the 5th ward and beyond.

      That all said, I share your concern about the details regarding play space for the students. It’s unfortunate that the city has not earned the trust of 5th Ward residents or shown sufficient commitment to the prospect of not only moving but genuinely improving the Fleetwood Jordain community center (while ensuring a continuity services) to the excited benefit of current residents. If that had been the case then there could have been greater room for outdoor playspace. That said, I’ve not seen anything that definitively says they have rejected the prospect of a rooftop playground in combination with the commitments made with Family Focus.

      I am still very much wary of the suggestion that they might replace the grass field space with astroturf for both safety and environmental reasons and hope that folks will help advocate to keep grass greens.

      1. Erik, if you still have concerns, especially regarding the play field and green space, I recommend writing the D65 school board and your Alderperson. The plan needs to be formally approved by the City Council (aka your alderperson will be a deciding vote). The Land Use Commission approved the proposal with the condition of replacing the artificial turf with grass. D65 should make the change as a result of the condition, but I have not yet seen the finalized D65 5th Ward School Plan, so I can’t be sure they will adopt it.

  2. This article does not mention that many citizens wrote letters or spoke about concerns around the adverse impacts of artificial turf (i.e. increased risk of cancer and injury plus environmental impact of increased heat and lack of drainage). Two children even spoke about their health concerns regarding this issue. Grass is much safer for our kids. Thankfully, the LUC approved with the condition that grass replace the large play field of artificial turf. Hopefully, D65 will make this change before the City Council Meeting for final approval.

  3. Honestly this talk about artificial grass is like complaining about the color of deck chairs on the Titanic. 5th ward school is a complete financial boondoggle. Sorry some of you are not happy to attend Willard, Lincoln and Orrington. If you need me I’ll be at Oakton dealing with a ancient building that has water, rats and roaches. Enjoy your ill conceived and ill financed new school.

  4. I am following all of these updates on the school and realizing that no one is talking or asking about the most obvious question out there. HOW does a school of this magnitude get financed with only $40M raised over year ago on a budget that was done even prior to that? Anything costing $40M in early 2022 is now easily $50M or more. Architect friends has surmised the school will actually cost close to twice the projected cost. We can talk all we want about it but money doesn’t grow on trees, interest costs have easily doubled in the last year and so, how does this school get built again?

    1. The ink’s already dry on the loan. The check’s been cut, and the payments will start either next year or the year after that. There’s no going back now. Thanks Horton! Thanks, school board!

  5. When dealt with a land space this small, the new school should have been limited to a size to fit the local K-5 elementary school population within walking distance of the school, not additional students from outside the neighborhood and not jr. high students (why jr. high students here and not at all the other neighborhood schools?). The decision to include all of Bessie Rhodes school within this seems like a capricious whim that goes against common sense for this particular very small land space — the whole rationale for building this school in a time of rapidly declining enrollment was to give back to this neighborhood a LOCAL school. Why have zoning rules at all if you can just break them significantly on an administrator’s whim?

    I am shocked that the immediate neighbors around the school are ok with a block-long, three story building that has ALMOST NO SETBACK being imposed on their block, and which has to have a negative impact their home values.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *