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New school report on D65 agenda

The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board has allocated a two-hour block of time on the agenda for Monday night’s meeting, starting at 7 p.m., to discuss a recommendation for a new school in the 5th Ward as a way to accommodate an expected influx of 600 to 700 more students to the district between now and the end of the decade.

The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board has allocated a two-hour block of time on the agenda for Monday night’s meeting, starting at 7 p.m., to discuss a recommendation for a new school in the 5th Ward as a way to accommodate an expected influx of 600 to 700 more students to the district between now and the end of the decade.

The New School-Referendum Committee, after meeting 14 times this year, approved its final report on Aug. 30.

Three of the seven-member board were on the committee that recommended building a new school, rather than adding classrooms to existing schools, noting that the cost to the district was essentially the same under either scenario…or about $25 million, plus increased annual operating costs.

Board president Katie Bailey and member Jerome Summers co-chaired the committee, which also included Kim Weaver.

What apparently sold the committee on the new school was testimony from a number of residents of the 5th Ward who have been without their own attendance-area school since the district began busing students to outlying schools in 1967 for racial integration purposes.

Although the committee did not recommend a specific site, it suggested that a location be selected within what it designated as the Central Core.

It defined that as “beginning at the corner of  Church Street and the Sanitary Canal, following the Sanitary Canal north and northeast to Green Bay Road, then southeast on Green Bay Road to Emerson Street, then west on Emerson Street to Ashland Avenue, then south on Ashland Avenue to Church Street, then west on Church Street to the Sanitary Canal.”

Until busing began in 1967, this area was served by the Foster School, which was subsequently closed and sold to Family Focus.

While the student body of the old  Foster School was essentially all black, the committee noted in its report that the demographics have changed somewhat to a more diverse mixture of 63 percent black, 30 percent Hispanic, and  7 percent Asian, Pacific Islander, and white.

One consideration expected to weigh heavily on the Board’s decision will be the likelihood of a successful referendum if the new-school alternative is chosen.

Legal counsel advised the committee that a new school would require a referendum. If the district purchased a building that was already utiltized as a school, however, a referendum would not be required, nor would one be required if the board were able to borrow money in smaller chunks over a period of several years to add classrooms to existing schools, they were advised.

Already construction of classrooms is under way at Willard and Dewey schools without the need for a referendum. Whatever scenario the board selects, the money will still come from the taxpayers. The alternative would be to steadily increase class sizes as the student enrollment grows.

The new school recommended by the committee would include all grades, from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Existing students would be grandfathered at their present schools if they chose to do so, although committee members at the Aug. 30 meeting speculated that few would turn down the opportunity to attend a new, air-conditioned school in their neighborhood.

Related document

The New School Committee report

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 stations and business-oriented magazines.

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