The Evanston/Skokie District 65 Board of Education came close Monday night to rejecting a special Board committee’s recommendation to build a new kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school in Evanston’s 5th Ward, but kept its options open until the public has had a chance to give more feedback before making its formal decision next Monday.

The Evanston/Skokie District 65 Board of Education came close Monday night to rejecting a special Board committee’s recommendation to build a new kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school in Evanston’s 5th Ward, but kept its options open until the public has had a chance to give more feedback before making its formal decision next Monday.

The occasion was a special meeting of the board’s Finance Committee, at which all board members attended in order to keep working on ways to handle the space needs of a projected rise in enrollments between now and the end of the decade.

On the table were five options, ranging from taking life as it comes (do nothing/change assumptions) to proactively building the K-8 school while adding eight teaching stations at Nichols Middle School, including construction costs of nearly $40 million.

Two other new-school options, and their construction costs, include building a K-5 school while expanding Nichols and Haven Middle School ($36 million), or building a new middle school (grades 6-8) while expanding Lincolnwood Elementary ($26 million).

Another option that would not involve building a new school would be to spend $19 million to add classrooms at Lincolnwood, Nichols, and Haven.

When Board President Katie Bailey asked each member to give their preference, the two newest board members, Richard Rykhus and Eileen Budde, along with Andrew Pigozzi, advocated a hybrid of the two non-new-school options,  with Tracy Quattrocki leaning in that direction. Jerome Summers and Katie Bailey advocated for a new school, with Kim Weaver leaning in their direction.

Summers and Bailey were co-chairs of the New School/Referendum Committee that originally recommended the K-8 new-school option, while Weaver was a member of that committee.

With the exception of Summers, a long-time advocate for a new school in the 5th Ward, the other members insisted that their minds were not yet fully made up and that their views could change before next Monday’s board meeting.

Those who opposed building a new school did so largely on financial grounds, including doubts that the public would approve a referendum to issue bonds to finance the venture. They asked the administration to provide more information, including a charter-school option.

Few members of the public were on hand to comment on the proposal. One expressed concern that a new 5th Ward school might resegregate the district’s schools, while another expressed his opinion that the board would do what’s right for the community, but said he would not mind paying additional taxes for a new school.

A special two-hour forum to obtain community feedback has been scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. and another one-hour forum at 6 p.m. Monday, before the board meeting convenes at 7 p.m. Both forums will be held at 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...

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

  1. 5th ward school

    A school in the 5th ward would most likely reduce the racial and socio-economic integration in the existing schools that draw on that attendance area.  That is a serious drawback to the proposal.  Such integration is terribly important in the long scale scheme of things, and is a powerful reason to question the placing of a new school in the 5th ward.  However, the advantages would seem to outweigh the disadvantages.  The power of communities and neighborhoods is something that needs to be supported and enhanced.   Many of the social ills we suffer with today can be linked in some measure to the breakdown of the neighborhoods.  And the main anchor in any neighborhood is its school.  While the federal government has intruded in many aspects of schooling – usually to the detriment of the overall education of the children – the antidote is neighborhood influence and support.  Nothing would bring many neighborhoods back to life and vibrance more than a sense of community, growing from a neighborhood school.  Parent, children, teachers, merchants and local government employees can work together to make a community strong.  Neighborhood schools can hold all this together. 

        Racial disparities continue to be rampant in America, and yet in many ways, some things have improved.  They have changed enough so that schools are not the only place where people can see, work with, and live around people who are different, and schools no longer need to be the sole source of racial and social education.  And because schools no longer have to serve this important function alone, I believe that the benefits of neighborhood schools, including the elimination of busing of the children out of their own neighborhoods, outweighs the benefits of more richly integrated classrooms.  (And anyone in Evanston ought to be able to attend any other school if there's room, so people who wish to attend a more integrated school should have the opportunity.)  

      If the destruction of the family has been problematical to the healthy development of children, then the breakdown of the neighborhood, by virtue of the homogenizing effects of governmental mandates, has only exacerbated the overall situation.   Bringing back neighborhood schools can only strengthen neighbohoods, which ultimately redounds back to their schools, reinforcing only the best of values, including a rich, family-supported educational system.  

  2. Questions about claims re: a 5th ward school

    CC–

    Although your argument makes some sense as a whole, I question several claims as they apply to Evanston specifically. (Let me say, too, that I could argue both sides of the 5th ward school issue and am currently undecided.)

    1. "The main anchor in any neighborhood is its school." Can we really say that (for example) Lincoln School is the main anchor of southeast Evanston? That Dewey is the main anchor of central Evanston? Where does this leave Rhodes and King Lab?

    2. "Parent, children, teachers, merchants and local government employees can work together to make a community strong.  Neighborhood schools can hold all this together." Are you using community and neighborhood synonmously? I'm not seeing how neighborhood schools are instrumental in holding parents, children, teachers, merchants, and local government employees together. Can you give an example of how a 5th ward school would do that? Or how an existing neighborhood school (e.g., Dewey, Oakton) does do that?

    3. "[Things] have changed enough so that schools are not the only place where people can see, work with, and live around people who are different, and schools no longer need to be the sole source of racial and social education." This may be somewhat true for adults in Evanston, but beyond public school, where else are Evanston CHILDREN given consistent, intentional opportunities to learn from and alongside kids who are and aren't like them (racially, socially)?

    4. "If the destruction of the family has been problematical to the healthy development of children, then the breakdown of the neighborhood, by virtue of the homogenizing effects of governmental mandates, has only exacerbated the overall situation." If governmental mandates are aggravating problems caused by the destruction of families (which is debatable in and of itself), then are you saying a neighborhood school alone has the power to overcome the effects of such mandates–and of broken families? Is there sociological or educational research evidence to support that claim? Many poor neighborhoods in Chicago and elsewhere have schools that haven't been able to do anything of the kind.

    Respectfully,

    Anna F.

    1. Mixed messages

      Anna, you ask good questions:

      "3. "[Things] have changed enough so that schools are not the only place where people can see, work with, and live around people who are different, and schools no longer need to be the sole source of racial and social education." This may be somewhat true for adults in Evanston, but beyond public school, where else are Evanston CHILDREN given consistent, intentional opportunities to learn from and alongside kids who are and aren't like them (racially, socially)?"

      We get mixed messages about this in Evanston. The high school administrators will tell you that academic tracking is unacceptable in part because it divides students along racial and economic lines–kids don't get to have meaningful interaction with kids who are different from themselves.

      At the same time, the grade school board is telling us these same children need to go to school in a racially homogenous neighborhood school.

       

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.