District 65’s new school committee is moving forward with proposals to build a new school — which may cost $10 million to $15 million — most likely in the city’s 5th Ward.

District 65’s new school committee is moving forward with proposals to build a new school — which may cost $10 million to $15 million — most likely in the city’s 5th Ward.

The committee holds its next meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 14, at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center.

Funding for a new school most likely would require approval by voters at a referendum, although the committee is exploring whether voter approval can be avoided.

What do you think about the new school idea?

Do you favor building a new 5th Ward school?online surveys

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. equity

    I'm not certain about this, but I think that the 5th ward may be the only ward without its own school.  It seems to me, from a social/racial equity perspective, that the 5th ward kids deserve to attend a neighborhood school instead of being bussed to other neighborhoods.  But I also recognize the financial implications of building a new school and understand that it may not be the most fiscally sound thing to do.  Nonetheless, it needs to be studied and considered and not rejected out of hand simply because it will be a costly endeavor.  Fairness is worth a lot, too.

  2. Fifth Ward School

    Isn't the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in the Fifth  Ward? Since rumor has it that it may also be on the chopping block (due to be closed and sold), maybe the City should sell it back to District 65? It would certainly be cheaper to refurbish it and build on if necessary.

    1. Noyes art Center is in First Ward…but how about Civic Center?

      Interesting point, Emily. However, the Noyes Cultural Center is in the First Ward–albeit right on the border. Kingsley is practically in the Fifth Ward–literally 10 meters away.

      Of course, the Civic Center is in the Fifth Ward. Don't they have surplus space? Why not establish some small charter school and use the Civic Center? You could also have this as part of discussions moving forward as to what to do with city offices.

      That brings up another point–it seems that the main interest in having a fifth ward school is coming from residents of that ward. Given the fact that there is not really a space problem district-wide meriting the construction of a new school, it is going to be difficult to get support throughout the community for such an expensive endeavor.

      Thus, I am curious: are there any efforts under way to establish a charter school in the neighborhood? According to Illinois law, community members can develop a proposal and present it to the board of ed. Have the advocates explored this option? It seems if you are really interested in getting a school sited there, this would be a better option.

      1. Kids don’t belong in the Civic Center

        "Of course, the Civic Center is in the Fifth Ward. Don't they have surplus space? Why not establish some small charter school and use the Civic Center? You could also have this as part of discussions moving forward as to what to do with city offices."


        Children deserve a clean, safe school….not the decrepit "Civic Center", which was deemed to be unsuitable as a school around 40 years ago and hasn't been improved since.

        It seems that tearing down the Civic Center would be a better option.  Perhaps a new school could be built on the land, but that is a separate question.

    2. Response to Fifth Ward School

      An excellent idea, Emily!  Of course, it makes too much sense to do so, therefore it is unlikely to happen.

    3. 5th Ward School

      Refurbishing doesn't cost less than building new!  Anyone w/ an old home in Evanston can tell you that.  The school it makes the most sense to "reopen" is Foster School, but it's not D65's anymore and I'll bet the number crunching will conclude that new construction is more cost effective. 

      I'd also not minimize the importance of a school's location to creating a sense of community.  All of our neighborhoods have a handful of streets that are divided by elementary school boundaries, and further divided by households that elect to attend magnet or private schools. Rather than the exception, that's the rule in the 5th Ward.  The 5th Ward is called the "5th Ward", because there isn't an elementary school to anchor the description of the neighborhood.  Our schools are where are neighborhoods come together, beyond the boundaries of our blocks.  In this case, site selection is a critically important part of the conversation.  I'm not a fan of the option to use the precious field space at Fleetwood-Jourdain that was floated many, many months ago, before the D65 Board had assembled this committee to look at the issue of a new school.  I'm opposed for the same reasons I opposed the potential sale of Chandler.  We need more rec space in town, not less.

      Let's keep supporting the work of the New School Committee.  It doesn't hurt to explore options and understand costs and tradeoffs.  It doesn't hurt to keep an open mind.  It's not yet time for decision-making.

  3. The Real Question.

    The questions should be:

    Do children and families in the 5th Ward deserve a neighborhood school? 

    Not a school that's close to the 5th ward, but a school that's actually in the center of the 5th ward.  And if  traditional financing does not allow for this to happen right now , what alternative financing strategies exist to make this a reality for the deserving children and families of the 5th Ward.

    This is sad.  When 70% of respondents say "No School for You"

    1. Yes, the 5th Ward should have a school…King Lab

      I completely agree that the 5th Ward kids shouldn't be bussed out of their community and absolutely deserve a school.  I think many people take issue with the idea of spending $10-15 million when there are actually fewer pupils than 10 years ago, the district has enough trouble keeping up with the buildings they have, budget cuts are a reality and if they were to simply redistrict and use the magnets as neighborhood schools we would be in great shape. 

      The magnets are no longer serving their intended purpose which was desegregation and experimental education.  Hardy Ray has specifically said they are currently used to relieve overcrowding at schools like Willard or Dewey.  Well, they don't draw from Willard and only serve to weaken neighborhood schools. 

      This town cannot afford a new school so the board needs to grow a pair and redistrict!


    2. every child deserves a school

      Please don't characterize people that don't favor a new school as saying "no school for you" to 5th ward kids. I think it should be King Lab via redistricting because all kids should have a neighborhood school option.  I do not favor BUILDING a new school because I think the kids in the 5th ward deserve that $$ to go directly to them and their teachers.  I care about spending the $$ we have in ways that get us the most bang for our buck BECAUSE we care that all kids get the best education possible with the limited resources we have.


      1. Evanston school busing

        Is it common for suburbs to bus children to schools ?  What is the distances [average and extreme] students are from schools ?

        I walked a mile to school from 1-12.  Kids in the neighborhood would walk together.  There was one school on the highway [maybe equivalent to Sheridan Rd.] that had a tunnel under the highway and at other spots [again what I'd call our 'highways]' there were crossing guards.  School ran from 8 AM to 4 PM but with band and other things kids might have to be at school by 7 AM and not leave until after 5 or 6 PM [sports, clubs, again band practice, drama] and might return after 7 PM for activities [e.g. drama] or the public library.

        1. Busing is not about distance only but busy streets

          Several years ago D65 produced a report at the request of a board member and demonstrated that it was not possible to greatly reduce busing because of the busy streets students would have to cross.

          When my children took the bus from King Lab nearly all of the children exited the bus within one mile of KL. They would have had to cross Church or Dodge or Lake or Dempster and crossing any of those streets would have been dangerous.

          We will not reduce busing by redistricitng.

          The point of the fifth ward school from the perspective of those most vocal really isn't about the children but rather about the community surrounding the proposed school.  It's about keeping family focus afloat and creating jobs in the neighborhood.

          1. The point of the school “isn’t about the children”?

            "The point of the fifth ward school from the perspective of those most vocal really isn't about the children but rather about the community surrounding the proposed school. It's about keeping family focus afloat and creating jobs in the neighborhood." I am not sure what you mean by "keeping family focus afloat," but a school isn't going to necessarily "create jobs in the neighborhood." Sure, redundant bureaucracy will result in more money being spent on duplicate labor, but it is not going to be a huge jobs generator. This will also be offset by a higher burden to taxpayers as their bill to District 65 will rise unnecessarily. We should ask: is it the purpose of the school board to be in the business of neighborhood and economic development. Surely the answer is no.

  4. Wards don’t line up

    There is only one school whose attendance is from within the bounds of a single ward.  However, the entire ward is in it's attendance area.   That one school is Willard.

    It appears that the rest of the wards line up as follows:

    1st Ward = Dewey / Orrington

    2nd Ward = Walker / Lincolnwood / Dawes / Washington / Dewey / Willard / Orrington

    3rd Ward = Lincoln / Dewey

    4th Ward = Washington / Oakton / Dewey

    5th Ward = Willard / Lincolnwood / Kingsley / Orrington / Dewey

    6th Ward = Willard / Kingsley / Lincolnwood

    7th Ward = Lincolnwood / Kingsley / Orrington / Dewey

    8th Ward = Lincoln / Oakton / Dawes

    9th Ward = Dawes / Washington / Oakton / Lincoln


    1. Only the Willard Island is

      ONLY the WILLARD ISLAND is completely within the boundaries of the fifth ward….the other attendance area for Willard is in the sixth ward as you state!

      The answer is the Evanston Portion of Walker…entirely in the second ward!

    2. Ward boundaries are arbitrary

      The discussion about whether the "fifth ward" needs a school is silly.  The ward boundaries are arbitrary political boundaries to insure representation on the City Council.  They have nothing to do with the schools. 

      In Evanston our schools are governed by the school board.  It seems like the easiest solution is to redraw the attendance boundaries.  This could be done quite equitably by simply drawing a radius around each school to encompass equal number of students, as equidistant as possible from each school.

      If you look at the attendance boundaries, you have some inefficiencies that could easily be dealt with by the simple redrawing of boundaries.  For instance, you have no fifth ward students attending Walker, which is only four blocks from the western end of the fifth ward.  SImilarly, there are no fifth ward students attending Dewey which is just blocks from the ward.

      You basically just need to eliiminate the non-sensical Willard "donut hole" and redraw the boundaries.  Have a transition period so students who are in a school and subject to redistricting don't have to move immediately, and the problem is solved without the waste of building a new school.

      An afternoon with a simple GIS program could solve the problem in the most equitable manner.

  5. 5th Ward School

    Build a big 21st century school in the 5th ward, redistrict, and sell a 100+ year old school.  The district gets a fantastic new building with costs financed by sale of old building, operating expenses are minimally impacted, and the 5th ward gets a redress of grievances.  Numbers still have to be crunched, of course (not my job); but make no little plans!

    1. New school for improved education ?

      I may be wrong but I don't recall any story or posting that gave a justification for the new school as a chance to improve the quality of education — i.e. start with a new faculty and a stronger curriculum and discipline than in the present schools. 

      I suspect like the branch library campaign, it is really "I want mine where I want it to be" and would propose another ethnic educational program to make excuses for present failure and to get "white guilt" to vote for the school.  Offering African mathematics [how many actual Africans are in the schools ?  we probably have more Asians of first and second generation], dual language to admit defeat in moving students to where they can handle to real programs, do not make students prepared for the world of tomorrow.

      Remember there is only so much money in Evanston and after the latest property tax bill [increase mostly for schools] and proposed 8% tax increase, fewer and fewer voters will want to allocate more money for schools—even existing.  With a new school we are not only talking cost to build, but new teachers, maintenance [staff/structure] and other costs—and a new union salary/pension costs.  If we want to even keep the current schools and correct their failures, other cuts will have to come—-city employees, services, cultural event, infra-structure

      If the school could turn education around, then yes it might get funded, but the Board has not accomplished that in existing schools.  Why would we believe they would do so now ?


  6. Charter School

    I think a charter school would be the ideal school for the 5th Ward because of the violence, high drop out rate amongst African American and Hispanic males. Charter schools are known to be successful for making high risk males high achievers and pursue higher education. If it is decided that a school be put in this ward it needs to something that can address the needs of this community…adding another school to list of D65 will not solve the problem. If not a charter then a trade school?    

  7. King Lab for the Fifth Ward

    Enrollment is not going up.  The same number of schools can serve the same number of children, with no additional cost.

    King Lab is IN the Fifth Ward.  King Lab is a beautiful school, with a great playground, wonderful principal, sunlit library, and amazing theater space.

    King Lab for the Fifth Ward.


    1. King Lab is in the Second Ward

      I agree that a new school shouldn't be constructed, but King Lab is actually in the 2nd ward. Of course, the whole notion that a school has to be in a city precinct doesn't make sense.

      The schools are governed by a different elected body–District 65–than the city.

      Simple re-districting to include King Lab as a neighborhood school and use a geographic information system to make equitable school boundaries could solve the problem in a rational way.

      Of course, this solution may not assuage those whose motivations are guided by something other than rationality.

      Methinks this is the case in the matter of a "Fifth Ward" school. This whole thing appears to be another gimmick by the superintendent to avoid dealing with actual structural problems at the district.

  8. It seems to me that the

    It seems to me that the tragedy was not in integrating Foster School in 1967, when it was converted from a neighborhood attendance to a magnet school, but rather by later closing and selling the building and moving the program to the current King Lab school.  If Foster the magnet school still existed, the solution would be obvious: allow nearby residents 1st preference, while also allowing voluntary choices to attend Willard/Lincolnwood/Kingsley, to preserve some diversity there and give the 5th Ward residents educational options.

    This solution still could happen with King Lab being the 1st choice, it's just not in the center of the neighborhood like Foster was.  But certainly many could walk there or have a much shorter bus ride.

    Perhaps someday Foster could be re-acquired, renovated and the King Lab program moved back there, if a use could be found for the current King building, and if funds could be available.  Perhaps, there will be a jobs bill someday approved by our congress with funds for school construction/renovation that could fund this.  But right now, sorry, we don't have the money.

    And finally, I'm sorry, but I am not at all convinced, all these years after Brown v. Board of Education, that creating 4 new "separate but equal" schools (new mostly black 5th Ward and what would become mostly white Willard/Lincolnwood/Kingsley) is a good choice.  Nor apparently do the parents of 5th ward kids who have been surveyed and who would rather stay where they are at.

    Back to the drawing board please!

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