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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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District 65 board decides to limit new 5th Ward school to grades K-5

Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek
The board will deliberate on the specifics of the K-5 plan in the future.

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education decided on a K-5 plan for the new 5th Ward school on Monday night. The school was originally intended for students in grades K-8, but D65 board members hope to offset an estimated $25 million in excess projected spending.

The new plan will bring them closer to the project’s initial $40 million budget. 

An email sent by interim superintendent Dr. Angel Turner to the District 65 community on Oct. 16 provided a list of 12 alternative options to their original plan, a three-story building with a capacity for 1,000 students and a LEED certification. 

Many of the meeting’s attendees favored the K-5 option from the list Turner provided, which proposed a K-5 school with 2 floors, a 600-student capacity and a LEED Silver certification — a sustainability credential for buildings. This option had an estimated cost of $44.1 million.

The board ultimately decided on a K-5 “modifiable” plan, agreeing that they would actively consider the specifics of the plan in subsequent meetings. They intend to discuss where a potential Two-Way Immersion program would be moved to. 

“I think the K-5 makes more sense for many reasons, but it also gives us time to slow down a little bit,” board member Omar Salem said. 

Salem said this model will also give the board time to verify the financial figures they were provided, after significant confusion with the initial budget. 

Some board members, like Board President Sergio Hernandez, said they still prefer the K-8 option. Hernandez said it would give more flexibility and support for an increased migrant student population and unhoused students.  

The board also voted to postpone the approval of a construction bid, tabling the decision for a future meeting. 

A large portion of the night was dedicated to public comment, as 30 people signed up to speak. All speakers maintained support for constructing a 5th Ward school, but had varying concerns. 

Most residents urged the board to correct a historical shortcoming that systematically neglected the academic needs of predominantly Black and Brown 5th Ward residents. Attendees also expressed a desire to see accountability from the board for their financial oversight. 

“We are here tonight to say to (District 65), the school board and residents are on the cusp of making right a 50- or 60-year wrong decision,” said the Rev. Michael Nabors, president of the Evanston/North Shore NAACP. “One could almost hear the ancestors uttering a proclamation of ‘amen,’ ‘ashe’ or ‘about doggone time.’”  

The discussion also raised larger concerns about capacity at other District 65 school buildings. 

According to a data table shared during the meeting, the proportion of enrolled students compared to school capacity levels is low across the board –– starting with 52.97% at Orrington Elementary. Only one school, Nichols Middle School, exceeds its capacity goal. The board said they will consider whether they should close down certain school buildings that pose an unnecessary financial burden to the district. 

During the district updates portion of the night, Turner also said that the board is still looking for a school leader for the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies. 

“That community is near and dear to my heart and I don’t want to make a haste decision as it relates to that. And so the urgency is there,” Turner said. 

Turner said her team will aim to find a school leader before the district’s winter break. 

Bessie Rhodes parents have raised concerns over the future of the TWI program — a K-8 bilingual education magnet program which was supposed to be relocated to the 5th Ward school building. Given a revised K-5 plan for the 5th Ward school, it remains unclear where the TWI program will be relocated to.

Throughout the night, board members deliberated on where to move the TWI program should a 5th Ward school design call for its relocation. 

The board said that they will strongly consider feedback from Bessie Rhodes parents concerning the future of their school and the TWI program, though the final decision will be up to the district. 

Email: [email protected]

Related Stories:

5th and 2nd Ward parents demand clarity, communication from District 65 board

Bessie Rhodes parents demand TWI program be separated from 5th Ward school plans

‘Sick to my stomach’: 5th Ward school is $25 million over budget, board to consider alternate plans

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