City Council discusses need for community feedback on 5th Ward school plans


Mika Ellison/Daily Senior Staffer

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th). Burns said he’d like to see the city collect more information on residents’ views surrounding plans for the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center.

Aviva Bechky, City Editor

City Council discussed next steps for the new 5th Ward school and the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center on Monday.

Evanston’s 5th Ward, which is predominantly Black, has not had a neighborhood elementary or middle school in more than 50 years. Last March, the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education voted unanimously in favor of building a new school in the 5th Ward, which will open for the 2025-2026 academic year.

City staff members presented four potential plans for the 5th Ward school at a December community meeting. Three plans involve relocating the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center and replacing the current building with the new school, while the fourth places the school where Foster Field is now.

Lara Biggs, the city’s capital planning and engineering bureau chief, proposed four actions Monday: Allow the current Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center to remain in service while a new one is built, hire a consultant to oversee changes to the community center, expand public engagement related to the new center and amend the memorandum of understanding between the city and District 65.

The city should have communicated a single plan to District 65 by Jan. 1 under the terms of the two parties’ memorandum of understanding, according to Biggs. The district allowed the council a “very small extension,” she said, but needs to quickly design its building so it can begin construction on schedule.

“One reason that we’ve had very limited public engagement: We’re racing through this at sort of a breakneck speed because District 65 schedule is a little bit more fixed,” Biggs said.

However, several councilmembers said they still wanted to get more community involvement in the planning process.

An online survey that closed Dec. 15 collected information about where Evanston residents want to see the new 5th Ward school and Fleetwood-Jourdain located.

According to a memo from Biggs, the survey results showed a preference for preserving Foster Field and relocating Fleetwood-Jourdain. It received responses from 342 residents, but only 88 who identified as 5th Ward residents. Just 77 of the 342 total respondents identified as Black/Caribbean and 28 as Latinx/Hispanic.

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) expressed reservations Monday about the limited number of responses, suggesting a more refined survey be rolled out.

“We need to determine what those professional survey standards are. How many people are we looking for?” Burns said.

He asked city staff to have consultants present options and clear standards for a second survey.

Beyond the desire for more community input, Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) and Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) also said they didn’t have enough budgetary information to make a decision.

“We can’t possibly give any guidance tomorrow and finance a budget,” Kelly said. “We will absolutely have to have at least one or two more meetings with Finance & Budget with material to read ahead of time.”

City Council ended the discussion on Fleetwood-Jourdain and the 5th Ward school location without reaching any decisions.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @avivabechky

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