Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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School’s decision deadline tonight

The future of a new school in the Fifth Ward will be decided tonight at the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 school board meeting.

A task force presented a proposal for a new Fifth Ward school to the board in October. The area has lacked a neighborhood school since Foster School closed in 1979. After the closing, students from the ward, most of whom are black, were bused to other district schools to promote integration.

Today, busing helps maintain a district guideline that states no school can have more than 60 percent of one racial group.

Many community members and parents have said they believe busing has a negative impact on students. Busing was supposed to narrow the achievement gap between white and minority students, but district test results and program assessments have revealed that a large gap still exists. Community members also are worried about students’ lack of identity and disinterest in learning.

The task-force plan proposes that a kindergarten through third-grade school be created at the former Foster School, 2010 Dewey Ave, now owned by Family Focus. Twelve classrooms and a gym would be renovated in the shared space.

Tonight’s meeting is the scheduled deadline for the board to make a final decision on the school. Several board members have said they would vote for the school. But board members must consider other issues — such as negotiations with Family Focus that still are not finalized.

In light of the district’s projected deficit of about $8 million by 2005-06, the financial difficulties of creating and maintaining it also are important problems.

“(Finance) overlays everything,” said Bob Eder, a school board member. “It’ll be a significant part of everyone’s calculus.”

The board also must decide if building a school is the best way to improve minority student achievement, and if state grant money the district will receive would be best spent creating the school.

“Ostensibly, the $4.2 million will be spent to increase achievement in Fifth Ward students, especially low income families,” Eder said. “But is that the best way to spend it?”

Board members have said there are several options it can take with the school. They could approve its creation for the 2003-04 school year, delay its opening until a later date or vote against it.

The board also could vote for a referendum to build a new school, but Eder said he did not think that would be likely or appropriate.

The school board may send the proposal back to the district administration with recommendations, then have the administration approach them later, Eder said. The administration is willing to consider alternative requests for a school through the fifth grade or an alternative plan to first create a kindergarten school and add an additional grade every year, he said.

Other discussion items for the board include the district’s assessment scores on state tests, specifically the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). The ISAT is given yearly to students in the third, fifth and eighth grades and tests students in math, science, writing and reading.

Although there are some negative trends, such as decreased writing scores districtwide and statewide, there also are many positive achievements, Eder said. He said people should look at the context of the scores rather than just doing year-to-year comparisons, which often are statistically insignificant.

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School’s decision deadline tonight