More than two dozen parents offered views to the District 65 School Board on the two-way immersion bilingual program at a public forum Monday night.

Willard or Kingsley?
The Board heard from many Willard School parents.

Mary Skinner said she and her husband, a native of Mexico, moved to Evanston because of its diversity and closing the Willard strand would suggest the board is turning its back on diversity.

Aracely Lopez said her kindergartener did not want to attend school after the Kingsley School strand was closed this fall due to low enrollment there and she was moved to Willard School.  She encouraged the board to keep the strand at Willard to avoid having families displaced again.

But other Willard parents said the school is too small to host the two-way immersion program without putting students in a basement classroom and re-wiring a room to be the teachers’ lounge which is currently set up with the school’s copy machines.

How many schools?
Board members asked whether six strands of the two-way immersion program allows for enough spaces if the administration’s enrollment projections are too low.

Board member Sharon Sheehan said the administration’s six strand model calls for two classrooms of 20 students and four classrooms of 21 students, while the seven strand model calls for six classrooms of 19 students and one classroom of 20 students.

Board member Julie Chernoff asked whether it made more sense to plan for slightly smaller class sizes that would keep class sizes below District guidelines if native Spanish-speaking students join the classes in later years.

The district lets native Spanish-speaking students join the program at any class level, while native English-speaking students can only begin the program in kindergarten or first grade.

Two at Washington?
On the issue of reducing the number of strands at Washington School from two strands to one, Washington parent Laura Mudd told the Board that an exhaustive effort had been undertaken a few years ago to assess the best setting for the two-way immersion program.

She said that that effort concluded that the two-way immersion program was best operated in one or two locations and she asked why that conclusion was ignored in the current proposal for six locations.

She also told the board that the two strands are working well at Washington and, for the stability of the school, the two strands should be maintained there.

King Lab
A large number of parents from the King Lab School attended the forum.

They apparently had learned that board member Julie Chernoff requested information from the superintendent to assess whether the board should consider placing a strand of the two-way immersion program at King Lab school.

But district administrators said King Lab was unsuitable for the program because it also includes a special education program and offers classes through 8th grade, while all the current two-way immersion schools have only kindergarden through 5th grade classes.

After a short discussion, the board voted to drop the idea of adding the bilingual program to King Lab.

Capital improvement program
A plan to issue $10 million in bonds to fund a variety of fire, life safety and air quality improvements at various schools drew no public comment and the board voted 6-0 to proceed with the bond issue.

Board President Mary Erickson said that as the bonds are issued, projects to use the funds will be selected from a list developed by an architectural firm hired by the board.

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