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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Bessie Rhodes parents demand dialogue with District 65 administrators about planned school closure

Edward Simon Cruz/The Daily Northwestern
Bessie Rhodes students wrote chalk messages outside the Joseph E. Hill Education Center before Monday’s public hearing.

Parents of students attending the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies demanded two-way communication with Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education members and administrators at the second of three public hearings on plans to close the school, held Monday at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center.

In a flyer circulated online in April, parents said the district should not close the school without making decisions on other potential school closures. 

The parents also said the district’s statements about high maintenance costs and declining enrollment do not justify closing the magnet school — the only District 65 school where all K-5 students learn in Two-Way Immersion classrooms, combining English and Spanish learners and building their fluency in both languages. 

One parent, Ryan Lezcano, said the district should directly address what the parents say are “discrepancies” in data about maintenance and enrollment, since other schools have greater maintenance costs and enrollment rate declines. He said the district should do its “due diligence” by presenting a clear case for closing the school. 

“We are owed that answer,” he said. “Either we’re wrong or your decision has changed.” 

The District 65 board approved a revised Student Assignment Plan in March 2022 to ensure walkable neighborhood schools throughout the district. The proposal includes building a school in the 5th Ward — the ward’s first neighborhood school since Foster School transitioned to a magnet school in 1967, then closed in 1979. 

The 5th Ward school was set to welcome Bessie Rhodes’ K-8 students and continue the TWI program as part of a “school within a school” model. However, after District 65 Superintendent Angel Turner announced in October that the planned school was $25 million over budget, the board approved a smaller K-5 building with a TWI program. 

If Bessie Rhodes closes, Haven Middle School would be the first building with a dual language program for sixth through eighth grade, and all three District 65 middle schools would contain dual language programs by the 2029-30 school year, according to the district’s revised plans

Bessie Rhodes parent Beatriz Cabrera said breaking up the Bessie Rhodes community would harm its students — especially those moving to Haven, which she said has a history of racism against students of color. 

“Placing our children in a system that has consistently failed them is not just unjust — it’s irresponsible,” she said. “We cannot ignore the systematic barriers that hinder the academic and personal growth of our Black and brown students at Haven.” 

At the end of Monday’s meeting, Board President Sergio Hernandez said he and the district have continually supported Latine students and remain committed to a “systemwide change that is accountable to all students and all families in our community.” 

During Hernandez’s comments, several parents murmured frustrations like “stop with the stories” and left the meeting room. 

“I wish I could keep the K-8 model as self-contained,” Hernandez said. “I really do.” 

One attendee, already standing, said, “You can,” and stormed out. 

As Hernandez moved to conclude the meeting, Omar Salem, another board member, asked when parents would hear board members’ opinions on the potential Bessie Rhodes closure. Hernandez said the board could discuss the plans at its next meeting on May 20. 

The district will vote on separate resolutions to close Bessie Rhodes and adopt its middle school Dual Language program during its June 10 meeting.

Email: [email protected]

X: @edwardsimoncruz

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Bessie Rhodes parents demand bilingual school remain open

Bessie Rhodes parents concerned as D65 Dual Language expands

District 65 to begin closing Bessie Rhodes

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