How will the community react when Evanston/Skokie School District 65 next month unveils a new student assignment plan that is expected to call for closing some schools and building a new one in the 5th Ward?
Just this month, the school board in Oakland, California, after an eight-hour meeting filled with angry protest, voted to close seven schools over the next two years.
Facing a budget crunch even more severe that what District 65 faces, the Oakland board has been ordered by county officials to cut spending by tens of millions of dollars as a result of declining enrollment and management and governing problems.
Five years later, researchers at the University of Chicago issued a study that concluded the Chicago school closing process had been chaotic and that “the test scores of students in both closed and welcoming schools” — the schools students were transferred to — “were negatively affected.”
Chicago has been periodically closing schools — and opening new ones — for the past two decades. A WBEZ analysis in 2018 showed roughly 200 closings or radical restructurings since 2002, along with construction of at least 20 new school buildings.
The WBEZ report says CPS “still struggles with chronically low-performing schools. And despite the pain and protests that accompanies so many school closings, the system has a more dramatic under-enrollment problem today than it did when it started shutting down schools in 2002.”
District 65’s Student Assignment Planning panel is scheduled to present scenarios for possible reconfiguration of the school system at a series of three online meetings, with the first at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27.
The committee is then expected to make its recommendations to the school board at the board’s March 14 meeting.