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

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



District 65 to expand Dual Language program, parents remain concerned about Bessie Rhodes closure

Daily file photo by Oreste Visentini
District 65 will begin expanding its Dual Language program to sixth grade in the 2024-25 school year.

As Evanston/Skokie School District 65 plans to expand District 65’s Dual Language program to middle school students in the 2024-25 school year, parents of students at the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies have requested that the district maintain the K-8 school building and bilingual program.

District 65 announced its timeline for expanding Dual Language programming at its April 8 Curriculum and Policy Committee meeting. School officials also announced where Bessie Rhodes students would attend school if the district follows through on its plan of opening the 5th Ward Foster School and closing Bessie Rhodes in the 2026-27 school year. 

Bessie Rhodes is one of several District 65 schools with a bilingual Two-Way Immersion program and the only school where all K-5 students participate in TWI. Bessie Rhodes parents and students will march from their school to the Joseph E. Hill Education Center on April 22, ahead of the first of three scheduled public hearings on the school’s future.

“We do not accept the complete termination of this important one-school, K-8 bilingual program and the dissolution of our engaged community of caregivers, students, teachers and staff,” the parents wrote in a flyer published online. “Bessie Rhodes is an anchor in the community for our families of color and Spanish-speaking families.”

Sixth-grade students will be able to participate in the Dual Language program at Bessie Rhodes in the 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years. Current fifth-grade TWI students interested in the program must complete the registration process for the upcoming Dual Language program by April 26, regardless of their current school.

Bessie Rhodes students who complete the registration process will be automatically accepted into the program. The district will then prioritize registrants designated as a Spanish-speaking English language learner and use a lottery to distribute the remaining seats among native English speakers.

District 65 Board of Education President Sergio Hernandez said expanding the Dual Language program supports his efforts to create a district that is more culturally and linguistically responsive to non-white families. 

“We want our children in specifically our most marginalized communities to have the joy and the skillset and the ability to be competitive global citizens,” Hernandez told The Daily. 

The Dual Language program will expand to Bessie Rhodes seventh graders in 2025-26. If Bessie Rhodes closes after that school year, Haven Middle School will host a Dual Language program serving sixth through eighth graders in 2026-27, when current Bessie Rhodes students who do not enroll in the 5th Ward Foster School or Haven will be able to join their neighborhood schools.

Evanston resident Andrea Martinez, a Bessie Rhodes parent and the executive director of Puerta Abierta Preschool, said she spoke with parents who decided to transfer their children from Bessie Rhodes to their neighborhood middle school to avoid a sudden school change.

The district’s previous communication was too inconsistent for those parents to justify waiting further to choose their children’s schools, Martinez said. 

“Since we don’t know what’s going to happen, we can’t put our kids’ education on hold,” she said. “I feel like this (revised) timeline could work when I’ve already made a decision because of the previous timeline.” 

District 65 will gradually roll out Dual Language programs at its other two middle schools beginning in 2026-27. Each middle school is set to have Dual Language programs for all three grades by the start of 2029-30.

The district previously considered maintaining a K-8 wall-to-wall bilingual program within either Bessie Rhodes or another building, according to Multilingual Program Director Amy Correa.

However, Multilingual Coordinator Cecilia Romero told The Daily the proposed plan for Dual Language was based on what “made the most sense” with the district’s priorities of creating walkable neighborhood schools and a middle-school Dual Language program. 

Bessie Rhodes parents also requested that District 65 announce other possible plans for school closures before closing Bessie Rhodes.

In a Monday email, Hernandez told The Daily the district is considering school consolidation and other options as part of its strategy for balancing its budget for the 2025 fiscal year. He cited previous district statements that Bessie Rhodes would be closed due to its maintenance costs.

According to Hernandez, the district will provide continued updates in both English and Spanish for families through emails, text messages and phone calls.

Correa said Saturday that the district would create a webpage with frequently asked questions based on the feedback collected, and she said there could be opportunities for future small-group meetings with parents. 

The board will act on separate resolutions for the school closing and Dual Language programming at its June 10 meeting. 

Evanston resident and Bessie Rhodes parent Gabriel Anaya said he worries that the board might disregard the voices of parents at the upcoming hearings if the board members have already decided to close Bessie Rhodes. 

“Is the board really going to have an open mind to make the decision that made them change their opinion, or is it simply ‘checking the box?’” he said. 

Email: [email protected]

X: @edwardsimoncruz

Related Stories:

Bessie Rhodes parents concerned about future of bilingual program

District 65 to begin closing Bessie Rhodes

District 65 talks Two-Way Immersion curriculum

More to Discover