The first day of school always combines nervousness with excitement.
For students, will I like my teachers?
For teachers, will the class absorb my lessons?
And for parents, what can we expect, not just on Day One, but all through Day 180 at the end of the academic year?
On Day One at Dewey Elementary School, parents were wondering about the impact of having a new principal and assistant principal.
“It seems like there are a lot of changes taking place,” said Nouvlette Foreman, as she dropped of her third grade son on Wednesday morning.
“It doesn’t seem like they’re ready and fully together,” Foreman added.
The new principal at Dewey is Anna Marie Newsom. Laura Pinsof is the new leader at Lincolnwood.
The district says there are five new assistant principals system-wide, including an additional AP at Haven Middle School, where discipline problems, the noose incident, and teacher transfers made the last school year both challenging and controversial.
As for safety, each of the district’s 16 buildings will be getting a “concierge,” an unarmed individual who will control access to the building, monitor the halls and the ID pass system for visitors, as well as just keep an eye out for trouble.
The nearly $500,000 to pay for the concierges will come from not renewing the round-the-clock bodyguard protection for Superintendent Devon Horton.
District 65 also added two safety managers for the school system, and will incorporate more technology into building safety plans.
Someone not added just yet, but in the works, is a principal for the to-be-built school in the 5th Ward. That individual will be brought on board, in theory within a few months, to start planning how the school will operate.
Completion target for that long-awaited $40 million building has been pushed back from being ready for the 2024-25 school year until the spring of 2025.
It’s also unclear if the school would open immediately once it is ready, or will wait until the fall of 2025.
Either way, the delay gives District 65 and the City of Evanston time to study adding a community center to the 5th Ward project. The new recreation facility would replace the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center.
Joey Hailpern, chair of the school board’s Finance Committee, told Evanston Now in an email that he is optimistic the city and the board will work together cooperatively to see if adding a community center can work, what it will cost, and how to pay for it.
If the decision is “yes,” Hailpern noted, “this changes a lot of the scope so far since the parameters (big and small) for construction may change, traffic flow may be altered, and overall designs need revisiting.”
Hailpern indicated that a combined school/community center could be a terrific boost for the neighborhood long-term, which “could be great for Evanston.”
“As far as ripples through the budget go,” Hailpern said, “its too soon to speculate, but not too soon to plan.”
That planning, he said, will start very soon, and allow District 65 to determine if adding a community center “has major obstacles or can move forward.”
One ripple which has already happened … the decision that the Bessie Rhodes magnet school building will not close as previously planned at the end of 2023-24.
The Rhodes program is to be transferred to the 5th Ward building as a “school within a school,” but District 65 Chief Financial Officer Raphael Obafemi told Evanston Now that the Rhodes building will remain open until the 5th Ward school is ready.
For now, students, teachers, and parents are more concerned about Day One, School Year 2022-23, and how things will turn out.
Evelina Kim, who brought her third grade son to Dewey, sounded a similar theme as did other parents about changes taking place now.
“We have a new principal and new teachers,” Kim said.
“I certainly hope it’s for the best.”