D65 Superintendent Devon Horton & members of School Board committee Tuesday evening.

The new school for Evanston’s 5th Ward will be built where it was first suggested on Foster Field.

A proposal to combine construction of the school with a new Fleetwood-Jourdain Recreation Center had included options for rearranging or expanding the property used for the two facilities.

City officials said last week that doing both projects at the same time would not work, because of the school district’s tight timeline for completing the school project.

So the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board is moving forward with plans to construct the school on the Foster Field site. And, at least for the moment, the recreation center will remain where it is.

The Fleetwood-Jourdain Center is the red-roofed building in this westward-looking aerial view from Google Maps.

Sarita Smith, District 65’s manager of student assignments, told the school board’s Curriculum and Policy Committee on Tuesday that “we were hoping that the city would separate their time frame from ours, which is great for us.”

Deciding what to do, or in this case, what not to do, has cost both the city and District 65 some money.

The city, which proposed the possibility of a joint school-rec center project, paid $200,000 for a study on the various options.

School officials say the study is part of why the 5th Ward school now is scheduled to open a year later than initially planned, causing the school system to will miss out on a projected $2 million dollars in savings from reduced busing.

Superintendent Devon Horton told the committee that the district will “submit an application for the property that we own.”

“We want to keep it very clean,” Horton added. “We are not submitting anything for any property or land that the city owns.”

The school board is paying for the new school.

Board Vice-President Biz Lindsay-Ryan said “the school building has always been the plan. We are moving forward while the city is still figuring out what they are doing with their space.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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  1. A related article shows the decline in D65 kindergarten enrollment. The future will probably show an overall decline in D65 school enrollment. D65 plans to build a new school to replace an existing school because the Fifth Ward needs a school. The Evanston Transportation Alliance suggests a tunnel under the Metra tracks to continue the bike trail along the North Shore Channel to Sheridan Road to connect with other bike trails. In a related article in the Daily Northwestern, Alderman Burns mentions that the railroad and channel have cut off the Fifth Ward from the rest of Evanston. How would this work? (1) Build the bike and pedestrian tunnel under the Metra tracks and a pedestrian bridge at Darrow Avenue over the channel, (2) Reconfigure the Fifth Ward boundary to include Kingsley School, (3) reconfigure the Kingsley school attendance area to include more of the Fifth Ward, and (4) abort plans for building a new school since the new school will be only three blocks from Kingsley.

  2. Prediction – within two weeks of the school opening Horton will take a superintendent job at a larger district, leaving the rest of us with the expensive and unnecessary mess he’s created.

      1. Horton lost out on at least three jobs where they had public searches in the months preceding his hire here.

        The search here was done outside the public eye and curiously he was hired.

        It’s not clear how his time here is going to do him any favors on the market.

        Maybe he can find another closed door search once he leaves Evanston.

  3. The story says, “The school board is paying for the new school.” No, taxpayers are.

    The school board caved to pressure from a small group of people wanting a school for Black children. Look at demographics. The fifth ward has lots of Hispanic families and is gentrifying.

    This new school is burnishing the Supt’s resume. Also, he and the board lowered standards so student performance is less dismal and he looks more effective than reality.

    I agree that there is a high likelihood that he will move on and we will be paying the price for decades.

    1. I don’t think the school board “caved” to pressure from a “small group of people” — certain people have run for and been elected to school board, and many of those currently/recently on the board didn’t suddenly become in favor of bringing a 5W school in overnight.

      There’s a round of board seats up for grabs this year. I have yet to hear much noise about any candidate(s) who are campaigning on things that recent boards have gotten wrong or suggesting we go a different direction. If the status quo is so unpopular, why is there no influx of candidates campaigning on revised priorities?

      People are also missing some of the main points when focusing on enrollment declines in D65. Kindergarten enrollments are down disproportionately among schools in wealthier wards, seemingly due to families having the resources to simply opt for private school (or move). While part of that narrative is that the board and Dr. Horton should inspect why declines are occurring (especially factors they can influence) and propose remedies to slow/reverse the trend, the reality is that the fifth ward has been historically underserved, and the kids within it will benefit greatly from this school. If inbound enrollment is declining in north Evanston more heavily, then by default, there is a diminishing need for the aggregate capacity (and land usage) of the elementary schools there. Even beyond the cost savings, I would think most would agree that reducing the need for bussing kids to school will be a net positive in many ways.

      We can walk and chew gum at the same time — if the school is moving forward, can we not also ask the board what their plan is for the maintenance of existing buildings in need of it?

  4. One of the single most significant social determinants of health for children is access to outdoor/green space. Reading between the lines am I correct in understanding that Dr. Horton’s new 5th Ward School will be built on the current Foster Field, leaving little to no green space for the “two schools in one” (new 5th Ward school that will also include within it’s walls Bessie Rhodes)? This is equitable? This is the best our equity dream team (D65 Board & Admin) could come up with for the historically Black 5th Ward? Is anyone truly considering what is best FOR THE KIDS here? If the school is actually going to be built — this should be about more than the physical structure. Why isn’t it? This is feeling like a half-baked project being pushed — at warp speed — by individuals who have no idea how to implement. How sad.

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