City-School Liaison Committee reviews sustainability, summer programs


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave. City staffers and members from District 65 and 202 met at the high school to discuss updates between the school and the city.

Emma Yarger, Reporter

School and city officials discussed future sustainability programs, summer youth activities and construction and legislative updates at Thursday’s Evanston City-School Liaison Committee meeting.

Eric Witherspoon, superintendent of Evanston Township High School District 202, led and facilitated the meeting, which also included various city staffers and members of Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

Chief Sustainability and Resiliency officer Kumar Jensen updated the committee about sustainability efforts in the city and schools, which has been a standing item on agendas since their last meeting Nov. 19.

At the November meeting, students and community climate action groups came to show their support of city-school environmental action. They advocated for more climate awareness education in schools and changes in to school policy that could be environmentally beneficial.

One initiative already in progress is the transition from traditional light bulbs to LEDs in the school buildings.

Jensen said he will be working with Mayor Steve Hagerty to draft a more defined list of policies and procedures to implement the city’s environmental goals. Jensen is set give an update about these sustainability efforts at the Feb. 24 City Council meeting.

Witherspoon said the groups plan to work together on their environmental goals, which will be shared in the coming months.

“We can keep coordinating and keep our awareness going between and among us,” Witherspoon said.

Pete Bavis, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for District 202, said there will be new STEM classes added for high school students attending summer school.

“We also are going to have a science research methods course, for the first time, which allows kids to really participate in a lab setting conducting real, real-world research and using science at a level that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to do otherwise,” Bavis said.

Some committee members expressed concern that construction over the summer could affect school functions such as middle school graduations or other large city meetings.

According to Interim City Manager Erika Storlie construction to resurface a section of Howard Street will begin July 4, and should not disrupt any school events.

The ETHS auditorium remodeling will also affect the school system. Witherspoon said the space will not be available for city or school use as its light system undergoes renovations during the summer of 2020.

Finally, the committee discussed a possible property tax decrease mentioned in the Gov. JB Pritzker’s State of the State address. Pritzker said “property taxes in Illinois are simply too high,” and expressed his goal of lowering property taxes statewide.

Hagerty said the city and the school can get on the same page to lobby against Pritzker’s proposal, which Witherspoon called a “threat.”

“We don’t like the idea either,” Hagerty said. “We like our sovereignty.”

The next City-School Liaison Committee meeting will take place May 7.

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