District 65’s new school committee appears ready to argue in its final report that the Evanston/Skokie district will need to spend about the same amount of money on new classrooms whether it builds a new school or not.

District 65’s new school committee appears ready to argue in its final report that the Evanston/Skokie district will need to spend about the same amount of money on new classrooms whether it builds a new school or not.

“It’s still going to cost taxpayers about $25 million,” declared the committee’s co-chair, Jerome Summers, whether the district adds classrooms to existing buildings or constructs the new school that committee members favor.

The district’s enrollment projections for the remainder of this decade call for the addition of about 30 classrooms, assuming that current class size guidelines are maintained.

The 13-member committee named by the board in December has considered alternatives — including leasing space in existing buildings, outsourcing to a charter school, purchasing a building, adding to existing schools, or building a new school.

After hearing testimony from some African-American residents of the city’s 5th Ward who decried the loss of a neighborhood school as a result of desegregation initiatives in the 1960s, the committee voted to recommend establishing a new school in that area to serve about 600 students from kindergarten through 8th grade.

The main objection to building a new school was that it would likely require a referendum, under legal interpretations of state law, and in today’s financial climate, a successful referendum was considered a significant hurdle to overcome.

Hence, the committee is likely to argue in its final report that, referendum or not, a new school is the best alternative for the district.

With five committee members absent from Tuesday night’s meeting, committee co-chair Katie Bailey, announced that the minutes of the meeting would be emailed to all committee members on Thursday with a request for their comments by Monday, Aug. 22.

That, she said, would give the staff time to prepare a final draft for approval “at a 30-minute meeting” at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30.

If all goes as planned, the full school board will get the committee’s report at its Sept. 12 meeting and vote on it at its Sept. 26 meeting.

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. The fix is in unless we do something

    Doesn't D65 get federal funding in part based on racial diversity?

    If yes, then how diverse would a new Fifth Ward School be? How would a new Fifth Ward school affect the diversity of magnet schools?

    And most of all, if there is less diversity in the new proposed Fifth Ward school and magnet schools, would D65 lose it's federal funding or come under review of the Department of Justice and the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights?

    Did the New School Panel consider this?

    D65 school enrollment hasn't even exceeded its 2001 enrollment numbers. Evanston's population and growth is mature – there is no new land to build on. With the growing unpopularity of D65 and D202 recent policies I believe more parents are either moving out of Evanston or sending their kids to private schools – one of which just moved across town into a larger building.  

    The Fifth Ward right now is decimated with vacancies due to foreclosed properties so the number of school aged kids must have dropped significantly in recent years. Where are those numbers? D65 has been laying off teachers and cutting programs. Where is the money to build this school?

    This New School Panel is clearly stacked and will recommend hiring a consultant to find a way to fund the $25 million without a new school voter referendum.

    In other words my faithful readers, the New School Panel members want taxpayers to pay for a consultant to find a way to get $25 million from taxpayers without their consent. The Panel doesn't want to give voters a say in building a $25 million new school in an area of declining population and a time when the nation, state, county and city are flat out broke.

    There is not a justifiable need for a new Fifth ward school and there is not money to build one.

    If you don't like this turn of events then perhaps a phone call or email to D65 School Board members Katie Bailey and Jerome Summers might be in order. This is their pet project and they are determined to ram this through, voters be damned.

  2. No federal funding source for school diversity

    There is no federal funding source in K-12 education for "diversity." You might be thinking of Title I funding, which is based on the number of students in a school who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch (the government's proxy for high-poverty). A new school in the 5th ward would actually receive more funding by that criterion, not less.


  3. Numbers please

    I don't understand the numbers either.   Our census numbers showed little to no growth and the wards which grew were downtown – typically not a lot of kids.  The opening of schools report still shows certain schools with very small class sizes –  Oakton and Washington have averages as low as 15 children in some grades.  And many of the schools have averages below 20.

    Why aren't we simply looking a redistricting – which we'll have to do anyway, and then bring in a CHARTER!

    A charter school will have the opportunity to lengthen the school day / the school year.   Their are some charters that have proven success – we could learn from them.

    This community can make something exciting happen here, without building a new school that we can ill afford and appear not to need.

    Brinson was wrong on his performace data – why should we blindly trust population projections. 

    I'd like to see the numbers that justify the need to build another school.

  4. City Sold a School–Why?

    Is anyone aware that, in the face of long-known overcrowding, the City recently sold the building that houses Chiaravalle School?  This building (formerly an Evanston public school) was leased by the City to Chiaravalle until 2 years ago when it was sold to Chiaravalle for 3-4million dollars, a fraction of what the City is now spending on school expansions and proposes for a new building.  Nothing against Chiaravalle, but who decided this was a good idea?  Why wasn't this building appropriated by the City for use by the school district when the lease to Chiaravalle ran out?  This could have been a real fix for much of the overcrowding in the Dewey and Lincoln school districts and would have cost nothing compared to what's being proposed.  It's about time the school board and City officials become a little more savvy and start thinking long term with common-sense approaches to our fiscal and over-crowding problems.   This was a missed opportunity.

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