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 hears updates on dual language program, 5th Ward school

Anavi Prakash/The Daily Northwestern
Board president Sergio Hernandez said the 5th Ward school will help improve the walkability of district schools, something that is a district goal.

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education heard updates about its middle school dual language program and 5th Ward school construction plans at its meeting Monday.

The meeting followed the first of three public hearings on the potential closure of the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies. The board announced its plan to begin the closure procedure for the school at its January 22 meeting.

Kim Kelly, the district’s compliance coordinator, shared a plan to expand its dual language program across the district’s middle schools. In the program, students receive half of their instruction in English and the other half in Spanish. 

Next school year, Bessie Rhodes will have a dual language program for sixth grade students. Haven Middle School will have a fully implemented dual language program starting in the 2026-2027 school year.

Kelly said April 26 is the last day for families interested in the Bessie Rhodes sixth grade dual language to register for the 2024-2025 school year. 

The district’s goal is to implement a dual language program in all grades at three standalone middle schools by the 2029-2030 school year, depending on demand for the program, Kelly said. 

Board member Mya Wilkins said the district’s two-way immersion and dual language program plans gave her confidence that the English language learners and bilingual learners will have district support.

“It’s just really encouraging to see what we can do in the future to make sure we get as many students as possible the opportunities to participate in these programs,” Wilkins said. 

The multilingual services team also presented potential options for families at Bessie Rhodes, based on if the school closes or not after the 2025-2026 school year. 

If Bessie Rhodes closes, students entering sixth grade in the 2026-2027 school year would have the option to enroll in the dual language program at Haven or another middle school, pending demand, according to Cecelia Romero, the district’s multilingual coordinator. 

She said students’ third option is to take Spanish Language Arts classes at their home school, which is currently the only dual language option offered at the district’s middle schools.

Students in other grades will have the option to participate in the TWI program at the new 5th Ward school or their home school, if offered, Romero said. She added their other options include enrolling in the monolingual program or, if a student’s home school doesn’t offer TWI, be placed in another school’s TWI program. 

Kirby Callam, the district’s director of college & career and EvanSTEM director, updated the board that building the 5th Ward school won’t need a new zoning ordinance because the city has determined the proposed project fits under the area’s current use. 

Superintendent Angel Turner said Callam’s update was “exciting.” 

“We’re moving toward making some good progress with the building of the 5th Ward school,” she said.  

Callum also said there will be a special committee created to advise the board on what to name the new school. He said the committee will make its recommendation at the board’s May 20 meeting. 

Sergio Hernandez, the board’s president, said the 5th Ward school will help the board achieve its goals. 

“Our goal as a board is to have not children bussed to programs, but programs bussed to the kiddos,” he said. “It’s always been the other way around. Black and brown kids have been the ones who bear the brunt of having to diversify schools, so in that sense as well, we are making progress by making walkable schools across Evanston (and) Skokie.” 

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Related Stories: 

‘Yo soy Bessie Rhodes’: Parents demand District 65 keep K-8 bilingual school open

District 65 discusses bilingual Two-Way Immersion program benefits with parents District 65 discusses bilingual Two-Way Immersion program 

District 65 community meets new superintendent 

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