D65 Student Assignment Project committee presents school redistricting options to community


Photo courtesy of District 65’s Student Assignment Project Committee

The proposed elementary school rezoning map presented at the SAP meeting. The black lines represent the new proposed boundaries, and the colored sections show the current zoning lines. The maps for Scenario A and Scenario B are the same for elementary school.

Aviva Bechky, Assistant City Editor

Community members learned about options for building the first public neighborhood school in the 5th Ward in 50 years and changing Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s magnet programs Tuesday.

The Student Assignment Project committee designed two scenarios for school reassignment that Manager of Student Assignments Sarita Smith presented Sunday and Tuesday. She will present them again Wednesday at 7 p.m. for more community feedback. 

The district launched the SAP committee last spring to examine the school district structure and inequities in the system. The changes the committee is working on are long overdue, District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton said at the meeting. 

“Our policy requires us to do redistricting and review of student assignments every five years, but we have not held to that,” Horton said. “It has been close to 30 years since the last time a student student assignment plan was reviewed.”

The committee used six criteria for creating new scenarios: fostering community through neighborhood schools, modernizing attendance boundaries, reducing transportation expenses, addressing historic inequities, engaging community feedback, and incorporating master facility planning and enrollment projection data.

Scenario A

A map of Evanston divided into middle school zone districts. Colored blocks define the edges of the current school zones, and black lines outline the boundaries proposed by the SAP committee for Scenario A. There’s an additional neighborhood middle school, the 5th Ward school, under the proposed plan.
The map of Scenario A middle school zoning presented at the SAP meeting. Under this model, the district would build a K-8 school in the 5th Ward. (Photo courtesy of District 65’s Student Assignment Project Committee)

Scenario A would construct a K-8 school in the 5th Ward. Smith said the new school would help address historic inequities that remain after the closing of the predominantly Black ward’s previous neighborhood school in 1967. 

The elementary schools most impacted by this would be those with high proportions of 5th Ward students, she said.

Under Scenario A, one of District 65’s magnet schools, Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies, would be closed. Its two-way immersion and global studies programs would transfer to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Literary and Fine Arts School, the other District 65 magnet school, and possibly to other district schools as well.

If the change occurs, students at Bessie Rhodes would have multiple options.

“Bessie Rhodes families will, however, have a choice,” Smith said. “If for whatever reason they don’t like the new location, there are a choice of some neighborhood schools where they can continue their programming.”

Scenario B

A map of Evanston divided into middle school zone districts. Colored blocks define the edges of the current school zones, and black lines outline the boundaries proposed by the SAP committee for Scenario B. The proposed plan makes King Arts a neighborhood school.
The map of Scenario B middle school zoning presented at the SAP meeting. Under this model, the district would make King Arts, which is currently a magnet school, into a neighborhood middle school. (Photo courtesy of District 65’s Student Assignment Project Committee)

In Scenario B, a 5th Ward school would still be constructed, but it would only be grades K-5.

This scenario spreads magnet school programming throughout the district rather than centralizing it. Global studies programming, currently offered at Bessie Rhodes, would be infused into the district’s social studies curriculum framework. King Arts would become a non-magnet middle school.

“This scenario really came about from parents and community members asking for programs everywhere,” Smith said. “This scenario also allows us to have a stronger focus on our curriculum, our core curriculum and programming fusion.”

Two-way immersion students would be assigned to attend neighborhood schools or nearby schools with the appropriate program, she said.

Schools would see more enrollment changes under this plan because many students in schools with magnet programs would transfer.

Transportation costs would decrease under both plans, Smith said, which would help fund the construction of a modern school building in the 5th Ward. Under both plans, students could choose to stay at their current school until their last year there — either 5th or 8th grade — though school-provided busing may end.

Community Feedback

Smith asked participants to share feedback about SAP scenarios through an anonymous program called ThoughtExchange. More than 100 people participated.

One response pointed out that a survey conducted in fall 2021 underrepresented 5th Ward families. The community member asked how the committee would gather more feedback. Smith said the team was working with various community groups on further outreach.

After receiving a question about staffing changes, Andalib Khelghati, assistant superintendent for human resources in District 65, said staff members wouldn’t lose their positions as a result of the redistricting project.

Smith also clarified that while busing will be greatly reduced, there will still be busing for students who live more than a mile away from their assigned schools in both scenarios. 

Further ThoughtExchange feedback is available here.

What’s next?

The SAP committee will hold a similar meeting on Wednesday to gather more input. On March 7, the committee will present the scenarios to the Curriculum & Policy Committee, and on March 14, the committee will bring their final recommendation to the Board of Education.

If the Board approves, review of funding scenarios will begin. The redistricting assignments will not take effect until the 2024-2025 school year at the earliest.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @avivabechky

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