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

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

The Daily Northwestern

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District 65 board votes to begin closing process for Bessie Rhodes, approves revised 5th Ward school plan

Daily file photo by Seeger Gray
Evanston/Skokie District 65 voted to begin closing Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies Monday night. They also approved the construction budget to build a 5th Ward school.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education voted to begin the process of closing the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies building at its Monday meeting.

The process involves following an Illinois School Code requirement that mandates three public hearings about a school building closure before voting to formally close it. The earliest the K-8 Skokie school closure would go into effect is after the 2025-2026 school year. 

The motion passed 4-2, with board members Joseph Hailpern and Omar Salem voting against beginning the process and board member Donna Wang Su abstaining from the vote. 

During public comment, more than a dozen Bessie Rhodes parents voiced their opposition to closing the school. Many cited the Two-Way Immersion program — the school’s K-8 bilingual education magnet program — and the diversity of the school. 

“You made something good. Fight for it,” said community member and Anthropology Prof. Melissa Rosenzweig. 

Rosenzweig also presented the board with a petition signed by 135 D65 residents who want to keep the school open.  

The vote on Bessie Rhodes was tied with discussions of a new 5th Ward school and the future of the TWI program. The district originally planned to relocate the K-8 TWI program to the new 5th Ward neighborhood school. But after running into budget constraints, the district opted to only house K-5 students in the new 5th Ward school, leaving the K-8 TWI model in limbo once Bessie Rhodes closes.

Several public commenters voiced support for the creation of the 5th Ward school. 

“We believe it is District 65’s moral obligation to build a 5th Ward school,” D65 resident Roger Williams said. “It is an opportunity to correct the past wrongs.” 

The 5th Ward is the only ward without its own school, meaning all of its students are currently bussed to schools in neighboring wards. The new neighborhood school, set to open in 2025-2026 school year, comes as part of an effort by D65 leadership to right historical educational inequities for 5th Ward students.

Board members also unanimously approved a revised construction plan for the school.

The school will be approximately 84,400 square feet and have 24 classrooms dedicated to arts and “special classes.” It will also have a playground, a stage and a gymnasium, according to Interim Superintendent Angel Turner.

“We are in a situation where we can’t do everything,” school board member Mya Wilkins said. “I wish we could disconnect the success of the 5th Ward school from what’s going to happen with Bessie Rhodes.”

The board also approved the district’s Discipline Improvement Plan. The plan aims to address a disproportionate rate of Black students who are referred for disciplinary action in the district, according to Lydia Ryan, D65’s interim assistant superintendent of schools. 

Ryan said the district was flagged by the Illinois State Board of Education for being in the top 20% of districts with an exclusionary discipline metric. 

“It’s really important to double down on the leadership role as mentor and coach prior to evaluator,” Hailpern said. 

Turner said district leadership is “moving in that direction,” especially since Bessie Rhodes now has consistent leadership. The school was left without a principal or assistant principal from August to January. 

Sergio Hernandez, the board’s president, emphasized that many of these conversations are not over. 

“We will continue to engage with the community,” Hernandez said. “We invite you to be part of this conversation because this conversation isn’t done yet. We see you, we hear you, we care about you.”

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Related Stories: 

D65 discusses bilingual curriculum at TWI night, middle school program remains under question District 65 talks Two-Way Immersion curriculum 

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

‘Sick to my stomach’: 5th Ward school is $25 million over budget, board to consider alternate plans 5th Ward school is $25 million over budget, District 65 says 

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