The plan being considered by the District 65 School Board to build a new school in the 5th Ward could mark a return to the city’s segregated school attendance patterns of the past.

The plan being considered by the District 65 School Board to build a new school in the 5th Ward could mark a return to the city’s segregated school attendance patterns of the past.

A map of existing school boundaries with the proposed attendance area for the new school superimposed in red.

Almost a half century after Evanston voluntarily ended de facto segregation in its elementary schools by closing the nearly all-black Foster School, the board this month started discussions about building the city’s first new school in decades just across the street from the old Foster School building.

The proposal, designed as one possible response to projections of continued enrollment growth in the district, would require voter approval of a multi-million dollar construction bond issue.

While school officials insist that only the most preliminary ideas about where a new school might be built have been broached so far, an attendance area map drawn for a staff presentation to the board shows the new school serving the most heavily black neighborhoods in the city.

An Evanston Now analysis of U.S. Census data shows that in 2000, the most recent year for which block-level data is available, the population of the proposed new school attendance area was 80 percent black — compared to 22.5 percent black for the city as a whole. (Data from the 2010 census that will update this information is scheduled to be released in February or March next year.)

Less than 11 percent of the population of the area was white — compared to 65 percent for the city as a whole.

In addition, carving out the new attendance area would dramatically reduce the number of black students attending existing schools in north Evanston.

The population of Evanston northwest of the North Shore Channel and northeast of Green Bay Road was less than 5 percent black in 2000.

But the four elementary schools in that area had enrollments last year that ranged from 14 percent black at Willard to 27 percent black at Kingsley — because their attendance areas included predominantly black portions of the city that would no longer feed those schools if a new school were built with the attendance boundaries suggested this month.

Since 1985 the school board has had a goal of having no single racial or ethnic group exceed 60 percent of any school’s population. During the last school year only two schools exceeded that guideline — Orrington at 72 percent white and Willard at 64 percent white.

The board is scheduled to discuss the new school plan and possible tax hike referendum at its next meeting Sept. 13.

Related stories

New school may be on the ballot in April

D65 discusses referendum for new school

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Bad idea

    Bad idea.  Class sizes haven’t increased since the mid 90’s – we didn’t need a new school then and don’t now.  The school board is just trying to leave their legacy and we should vote them out.  We dont have the money for this now.

  2. Bad idea?…not so fast

    First, let me acknowledge that I am not an education expert. 2nd, any decision that was made 5 decades ago and represented the best thinking of the time, may no longer be relevant today. The education arena is an ever changing process, and I would hope and expect that the Board, look at ‘best practices’ if indeed a new school is a necesity.

    We alll must keep open minds.

  3. School desegregation!

    When Greg Coffin presented the first voluntary desegregation plan in 1968 (late 1960’s?), no one believed that schools could be desegregated on a voluntary basis. Surprise: it worked. It can work again if the community wants it to work!

  4. Bad Idea?

    Who ever thinks school sizes haven’t changed since the mid nineties has kids going to a school I’ve not heard about.  I have 3 kids, all have had huge classes– 28 5th grade kids in a room?  Is it fair to make one population of people commute across town to "balance the racial numbers"? Desegreagation is something deeper than numbers.

  5. New School? Expand Dawes instead!

    Instead of building an entirely new school, why not just put a second floor on the already existing Dawes Elementary School?  It could be easily done and the structure of the current school would allow the wings to be worked on in stages so we could continue to use the school while it was being worked on.  Regarding busing students, Evanston isn’t so large a community that children couldn’t take a bus from one side to the other in a short time…..

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