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Schools plan expansion while cutting back

This year Evanston’s schools laid off teachers while planning to expand buildings.

District 65, faced with funding cuts from the state, laid off 29 teachers in the spring, although it later managed to hire back about half of them as financial forecasts improved.

This year Evanston’s schools laid off teachers while planning to expand buildings.

District 65, faced with funding cuts from the state, laid off 29 teachers in the spring, although it later managed to hire back about half of them as financial forecasts improved.

Fears of overcrowding at some of the district’s more popular schools led the board to adopt a plan to cap kindergarten enrollment at Dewey, Lincolnwood and Willard schools.

That led to a massive turnout of worried parents when the kindergarten enrollment period opened. But in the end, all the kindergarteners were able to get into the school their parents requested, and the district added extra classes at Dewey and Willard to meet the demand.

With some schools under-capacity, while others were short on space, the school board debated whether to build additions at two schools, or redraw attendance area boundaries and build a new school near the former Foster School site in the 5th Ward.

The board ultimately voted to build additions at Dewey and Willard — moves it could fund without seeking voter approval.

The proposed new school would require a referendum vote. The board considered placing the issue on the April 2011 ballot — when three board seats will also be up for election.

But amid concerns about whether a new school at the Foster site would mark a return to segregation in the district, divisions among 5th Ward residents over the merits of the plan, and survey results showing little interest in a 5th Ward school — the board instead voted to appoint a committee to research the concept, with an eye on possibly holding a bond referendum in March 2012.

At Evanston Township High School, the hot issue was whether to eliminate honors-only sections of the freshman humanities class and offer the opportunity for nearly all students to earn honors credit by doing extra work in mixed-level sections.

The de-tracking plan drew the ire of many parents who feared the loss of the honors-only option would hamper their high-achieving children’s chances of getting into top ranked colleges.

But school administrators showcased education experts who said the mixed-level classes would give more students the opportunity to excel.

And the board this month voted unanimously to adopt the de-tracking proposal.

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