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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D65 gives design sneak peek for 5th Ward school at open house, encourages input from community members

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Misha Oberoi/The Daily Northwestern
District 65 hosted an open house displaying design plans for the new 5th Ward school at Fleetwood-Jourdain Center Tuesday evening.

After 5th Ward resident Alanna Williams’ grandmother, Madelyn DuCre, died in 2020, Williams realized she wanted to push forward DuCre’s lifelong vision: a neighborhood school in the 5th Ward. 

A mother of six, DuCre was frustrated without a school within walking distance for her kids, Williams said. DuCre was a regular speaker at City Council meetings and pushed extensively for a 5th Ward school, even at the time as its lone advocate, Williams said.

Williams said her goal is to become a founding teacher of the school. 

“These are the foundations that my grandmother led me to … I need to know my community — I need to be a part of it,” Williams said. “I need to understand and respect and embrace different cultures, and bring that to a classroom.”

Williams attended the 5th Ward school design open house hosted by Evanston/Skokie School District 65 at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center Tuesday evening.

Several District 65 administrators and architects from Cordogan Clark & Associates, the architectural firm working on the project, were also at the event. 

Melissa Messinger, the district’s chief communications officer, said the event was a vital feedback mechanism on design plans for the school. 

Along with several poster boards displaying photos of the school’s potential appearance, there was also a board with possible names for the school on showcase. 

Messinger said members of the Foster Senior Club suggested the names. The club includes several who went to the Foster School that existed in the 5th Ward prior to its transition to a magnet school in 1967 and closure in 1979.

“They’ve been an important part of this process and had been advocating for the return of a school to the 5th Ward community for decades,” Messinger said. “Building this school is really a testament to their hard work and involvement.”

Six mascot options were also presented on a board. Attendees could scan a QR code and vote for the names and mascots of their preference. 

An open house poster also listed sustainable elements in the school design, like reusing building materials, LED lighting and a high-end mechanical system. Craig Welter, vice president of Cordogan Clark, said these efforts have increased the costs of construction. 

For months, 5th Ward school planning has faced budget problems that forced the district to make the building a K-5 school instead of K-8, as was planned originally. Building a large school in a small area poses significant challenges, Welter said.

The updated budget estimate is $48.4 million as of January 2024. Welter said planners are looking to start the building contractor bidding process in the summer and construction in the fall. 

“We are on the tail end of design development, which is the second phase of what we go through in the architectural world,” Welter said. “(There are) still a lot of decisions to be made and ideas bouncing around, but we’re closing in on a complete design.”

Williams said the phoenix mascot, one of the options provided, is an accurate comparison to a school “rising from the ashes.” 

“If all goes well … I could potentially be teaching for a couple of years before my daughter will be able to attend in 2028-2029 as a kindergartener, and that would just be so full circle, so fulfilling, and so impactful,” Williams said. 

Email: [email protected]

Related Stories:

District 65 board hears dual language, 5th Ward school updates 

Foster Senior Club keeps seniors informed, active 

District 65 to begin closing Bessie Rhodes

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