“Dream. Wish. Explore.”
That’s how one Evanston/Skokie District 65 administrator described what is going on in the school system right now.
Sarita Smith, Manager of Student Assignments, told the school board’s Curriculum and Policy Committee on Tuesday that certain academic programs may be shifted from one school building to another.
No timetable was given, and no program specifics were outlined. The school board has already decided to close the Bessie Rhodes magnet school building and move the program to the new 5th Ward school when that opens in 2024-25, but this latest discussion opens the door to more potential changes.
Smith said programs “should be offered where students live,” not necessarily where the programs have been historically, in the preK-grade 8 district.
Smith said moving programs to a new home “will not be easy for some students and their families.” For example, some parents do not want magnet programs to potentially change locations, Smith noted, while other families may want certain offerings in every building.
As decisions are made, Smith said, “We want some of our most adverse voices at the table,” so opponents can get a chance to make their case. She did say there is data to back up potential shifts.
And if there are opponents to moving programs, there may also be controversy over another new possibility, wholesale changes in how middle schools are organized.
Assistant Superintendent Stacy Beardsley said District 65 “needs a comprehensive middle school redesign,” to better deal with issue such as social/emotional learning, among others.
Again, no specifics nor timetables were given yet. Beardsley said any changes would have to be agreed upon by the teachers union.
“We want to come to a design that better serves our student needs,” Beardsley added.
District 65 has three middle schools, Chute, Nichols, and Haven, with a total of about 2,200 students.
While program shifts besides Bessie Rhodes and middle school reorganization are not locked in, another change is on the table for the upcoming school year.
District 65, along with basically every school system in the country, had a hard time finding substitute teachers during the past academic year.
The district has used a contractor to supply subs, but Assistant Superintendent Andalib Khelgati said that vendor system is too expensive, about $1.5 million per school year, on top of what the substitute teachers are paid.
Khelgati said the district could save money by setting up an in-house team to hire substitutes.
Dollars saved, he noted, could then go for higher pay for subs, making the job more attractive.
“We’re starting to dream big,” Khelgati said.