District 65 staff hosts information session on new 5th Ward school plans


Esther Lim/Daily Senior Staffer

District 65 and the city plan on building a neighborhood school in the 5th Ward, the first in 43 years.

Selena Kuznikov, Assistant City Editor

Staff members from Evanston/Skokie School District 65 updated residents and parents on the progress of a new 5th Ward school Tuesday night, which is set to open as early as the 2025-26 school year. 

Hosted both in-person and virtually at Haven Middle School, the event offered an online space for residents and parents to voice their thoughts on programs like before- and after-school care.

In spring 2021, District 65 began developing a plan to modernize the district’s structure and address historic inequities in the school system. The absence of a school in the 5th Ward for 43 years has continued to disproportionately impact students of color.

The board approved a new Student Assignment Plan and a funding plan to build a kindergarten through eighth grade school in the 5th Ward this March. The SAP Committee — composed of District 65 staff, parents, caregivers, community members and consultants — is helping with the school’s eventual operation plans. 

Sarita Smith, director of student assignments for D65, said the district is working with the city to determine the school’s location, with tentative plans for construction near the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center. 

“We are trying to figure out how to preserve some green space but also meet the needs of the 118,000 square-foot-space school that we might need,” Smith said. 

Students that currently attend the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies will be able to attend either school once it opens. Smith said District 65 has created interactive maps with possible boundaries showing how school zones may change once the new school opens.

SAP and D65 officials did not clarify whether 5th Ward residents will have to switch their children’s school once the facility is opened. 

Deputy Superintendent of District 65 LaTarsha Green said the district is prioritizing transparency with engagement meetings in the second phase of the SAP effort. 

In the plan’s first phase, the committee made recommendations on some of the school’s future programs. The second phase will factor in data from Phase I and the Educational Equity in Evanston project, along with community engagement tours, to guide the committee’s decision making. 

“I think it’s important for people to know we’re trying to get as many diverse voices as possible,” Green said.

In 1967, District 65’s desegregation plan turned Foster School, the last neighborhood school in the 5th Ward, into a magnet laboratory school, meaning students had to apply to attend. In 1945, ahead of the change, nearly 100% of the student population at Foster was Black. The switch moved a large number of Black students out of the school, before it eventually closed in 1979. 

Since the 5th Ward lacks a neighborhood school, 5th Ward students are bussed to other elementary schools throughout the district.

Angel Turner, assistant superintendent of District 65 and former director of literacy, said the district is working to implement a new literacy program for the next school year as well as the eventual 5th Ward school.

“Our approach for this year is to identify a standards-aligned instructional resource that is both rigorous and culturally relevant,” Turner said.

Smith said the Amplifying Black Voices on Education Equity in Evanston initiative that began at the nonprofit STEM School Evanston received a grant from Northwestern to engage with Black families and understand how the school system could better serve them. 

The SAP committee plans to present its recommendations for the new school to the D65 board next spring.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @selenakuznikov 

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