District 65 board approves plan to establish 5th Ward school


Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Education Center, at 1500 McDaniel Ave. During its Monday meeting, the D65 Board of Education voted unanimously to approve a student assignment and school plan.

Olivia Alexander, Assistant City Editor

For the first time in over 50 years, 5th Ward parents may be able to send their children to a public neighborhood school nearby.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s Board of Education voted unanimously to approve a student assignment and school plan that would construct a K-8 school in Evanston’s historically Black 5th Ward. District 65 elementary school students living in the 5th Ward are currently assigned to five schools across the district. 

Foster School, which was the last neighborhood school to serve the 5th Ward, closed as a neighborhood school in the 1960s due to District 65’s desegregation plan. Children who had attended Foster School were reassigned to new schools.

Since then, many efforts to bring a neighborhood school back to the 5th Ward have been unsuccessful. In 2002, the district considered opening a school in Foster School’s original building. District 65 stopped these conversations a year later due to financial constraints. In 2012, a referendum to build a K-5 school in the ward was defeated. 

Most recently, District 65 launched the Student Assignment Project committee in spring 2021 to examine the school district’s structural inequities. One of its goals is to evaluate the possibility of reopening a neighborhood school in the 5th Ward. The board’s decision follows recommendations the SAP committee presented. 

During Monday’s meeting, board president Anya Tanyavutti said the lack of a 5th Ward school since the Foster School closed has hindered community-building in the ward. She said the work of the board is to repair past neglect while casting a bold vision for the future. 

“Tonight we vote on an incredible measure of repair,” Tanyavutti said. “We have built to this moment with collective deliberateness, care, bravery, imagination … for our entire community and for our collective future.” 

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Twitter: @oliviagalex

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