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Magnet schools seen gaining new themes

Evanston/Skokie District 65’s two magnet schools would get new curricular focuses under a plan presented to the school board Tuesday night. But school board members voiced concerns about the cost of the new programs.

Evanston/Skokie District 65’s two magnet schools would get new curricular focuses under a plan presented to the school board Tuesday night. But school board members voiced concerns about the cost of the new programs.

The magnet school planning committee recommended changing Bessie Rhodes School from a technology to a global studies focus. The program would include international study opportunities and daily instruction in Spanish in elementary grades with Mandarin Chinese offered at the junior high level. Language courses would also be offered to the parents of students. 

The committee would expand the focus at King Lab School from an emphasis on fine arts to "literary and fine arts." Students would be able to select a writing track ranging from poetry to publication writing with specialized fine arts tracks including creative movement and film.

Both schools would continue to enroll students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Committee members met every other week for several months to evaluate ideas and made site visits to Chicago area magnets schools to develop the proposals.

School board member Kim Weaver said she would like to have seen the committee propose more options to the board. And Board President Keith Terry said, "I’m surprised you didn’t come back with a math and science academy."

"It’s kind of hard to have this discussion without talking about funding," Board member Katie Bailey said.

Both schools built in the mid-1950s and the committee said the buildings would need to be overhauled to support the new program. In addition specialized teachers would be added to the schools.

Next steps on the project involve planning and developing a budget, with a goal to have the cost per student at the magnet schools not differ from that for students attending neighborhood schools.

"Move forward assuming that the dollar amount per child is the same," Terry said.

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