bessie_rhodes_school

They’re calling it “Scenario A, 2.0.”

It’s the latest recommended modification to Evanston/Skokie District 65’s school boundaries and magnet school programming.

The district’s Student Assignment Planning committee Monday evening called for moving the Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies into the proposed new school in the 5th Ward. The current Rhodes magnet school building would close after the 2023-24 school year.

Rhodes would then become a “magnet school within a school,” according to Student Assignment Manager Sarita Smith, who outlined the idea at the school board’s Curriculum and Policy Committee meeting.

District 65 Curriculum & Policy Committee, March 7.

The previous “Scenario A” would have moved Rhodes programming into the district’s other magnet school, King Arts, while still building a K-8 5th ward school.

The SAP group Monday night also dismissed what had been its “Scenario B” — making the new 5th Ward school K-5, turning King Arts into a middle school from its present K-8 magnet configuration, and closing the Rhodes building.

Magnet programs would then have been integrated into all district schools, an idea which “got no love from the community,” Smith said.

The school board has final say on what will happen, and is scheduled to take up the question next Monday night.

Whatever happens to Rhodes, a vote to build a 5th Ward school seems like a lock based on board members’ comments. It would open for the 2024-25 school year. Students whose elementary school boundaries would shift as part of the process could remain in their old schools if their families wish.

District officials have said the $40 million 5th Ward building can be done with something called “lease certificates,” which would make financing possible without a tax increase.

Chief Financial Officer Raphael Obafemi said the costs of paying off the lease certificates will be covered from transportation savings, as the district moves away from busing and toward having all schools within walking distance.

Superintendent Devon Horton said a majority of survey resondents favors a new school in the 5th Ward.

“There’s no trickery or manipulation,” Horton said. “This is very clear-cut and honest.” He said residents should call or email the district if they have any questions.

5th Ward students have been transported to schools outside their neighborhood in the name of integration since the predominantly Black Foster School closed more than four decades ago.

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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