D65 Student Assignment Mgr. Sarita Smith & Rhodes parents at the school Tuesday night.

One mom said she was “totally bulldozed” that the Bessie Rhodes school building, where her daughters atttend, will close, with the program moving to the new 5th Ward school whenever that facility opens.

But another Rhodes parent said she doubts that the $40 million 5th Ward project will actually ever happen.

“Being frank,” said the mom, who indicated she works in construction, “construction costs and labor shortages will affect” the 5th Ward school, now targeted for completion in spring, 2025.

Those were some of the comments Tuesday night, as about 20 members of the Rhodes School community met with District 65’s Student Assignment manager, Sarita Smith, to discuss what will happen to Rhodes and its 280 K-8 students, as part of D65’s upcoming redrawing of school attendance boundaries.


Smith said the Rhodes Global Studies program will not disappear, but will instead be included in the “brand-spanking-new, glorious building” in Ward 5.

That includes the Two-Way Immersion (TWI) bilingual program, which some parents said was the reason they enrolled their children at Rhodes in the first place.

“Bessie Rhodes doesn’t exist without TWI,” a parent said.

In TWI, part of the school day is taught in Spanish, the rest in English.

Smith assured the parent that “TWI is going with Rhodes to the new school.”

Besides Rhodes, there are currently TWI programs at Washington, Dawes, Oakton, Willard, and Dewey.

Smith said it’s not known yet how many schools will have TWI once the attendance boundaries are changed.

It depends on demand, especially for students whose first language is Spanish.

Right now, about 900 youngsters are in the district’s TWI programs, Smith said.

“The reality,” she noted, “is we can’t offer TWI everywhere.” So it should be offered, she said, in parts of town where there is demand.

Smith also urged the Rhodes parents to volunteer for the student assignment committees.

“My goal,” she said, “is to lift these voices when it comes to decisions” on what programs are offered where.

Final decisions are made by the school board.

This session at Rhodes was one of many community meetings the district is holding to share information and get input on the redistricting process.

The new attendance boundaries from that process will likely not take effect until the 2025-26 school year, as the restructuring is tied to the opening of the 5th ward school.

That new school will be the focus of another District 65 community session, from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center.

As for the Rhodes session, Debra Senra, the parent who was originally “bulldozed” about Rhodes school moving, said that as a result of the meeting, she “feels more at ease” about the future of her children’s education.

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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