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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Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Honda Sport Award
District 65 School Board votes to close Dr. Bessie Rhodes School
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District 65 Board to vote on resolution on potential Bessie Rhodes closure

Edward Simon Cruz/The Daily Northwestern
Parents and students marched from the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies to the Joseph E. Hill Education Center for Monday’s hearing on the school’s future.

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education voted 6-1 to introduce a resolution for closing the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies after the 2025-26 school year. The vote came at the end of a public hearing Monday on the school’s future. 

Omar Salem was the only board member to vote against moving the resolution forward. The board will vote on the finalized resolution at its next meeting on June 10. 

Salem had requested earlier that District 65 delay the magnet school’s closing by one year and begin the third phase of its Student Assignment Plan to solidify a district-wide plan identifying which schools would close. 

“Those two things should happen in concert,” he said. 

Under the district’s current plans, Bessie Rhodes would close just before the opening of a new school in the 5th Ward — the ward’s first neighborhood school since Foster School transitioned to a magnet school in 1967 and closed in 1979 amid efforts to desegregate the district. 

The board approved a revised Student Assignment Plan in March 2022 centered on the planned 5th Ward school to achieve the district’s goal of more walkable neighborhood schools. The 5th Ward school was set to welcome Bessie Rhodes’ K-8 students and continue its Two-Way Immersion 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. 

Monday’s hearing marked the final opportunity for parents and community members to rally the board to keep Bessie Rhodes open. About 60 Bessie Rhodes parents and students marched from the school to the Joseph E. Hill Education Center before the hearing, as they did before the first of three school closure hearings on April 22. 

Bessie Rhodes parent Rebecca García-Sosa said closing the school would harm English learners because other schools cannot replicate its multilingual support services. She compared plans to close the building to the previous closure of Foster School. 

“How is dismantling the only school where no one is othered and diversity is celebrated different?” she said. 

Before public comment, Turner said Bessie Rhodes has declining enrollment rates and the largest percentage of 5th Ward students in the district. She also said the buildings need significant repairs. 

Multiple parents disputed these statistics through both their spoken comments and posters they presented. The parents said Bessie Rhodes serves the highest percentages of students of color, low-income students and English learners among all District 65 schools. They also said the school’s enrollment rate is increasing, and  other schools have higher percentages of 5th Ward students, repair costs and overall costs per student. 

Turner said efforts to “right-size” the district are financially necessary and must occur in phases. The district will begin the third phase of its Student Assignment Plan in the fall to support these plans, she said. 

“Despite what it may feel like at the moment, Bessie Rhodes is not being singled out,” she added. “This is simply the first of several tough decisions that lie ahead as it relates to school consolidation in District 65.” 

After public comment, Board Vice President Soo La Kim said students affected by a potential Bessie Rhodes closure could continue thriving in other schools and that the school’s community could persist even if the building closed. 

Parents interrupted her remarks multiple times, shouting exclamations like “that’s incorrect” and “how are you going to talk without the data?” 

As the board debated Salem’s proposal to reevaluate school consolidation plans, Board President Sergio Hernandez said schools would only become more expensive to maintain if the district delayed closing Bessie Rhodes. 

Pete Schenck, a parent at Bessie Rhodes, said board members underestimated the consequences that a closure would have on its students — especially after the district could not meet its goal of moving them to the planned 5th Ward school. 

“All the stuff about, ‘Oh, we’re going to continue to support dual language’ — they feel like empty promises at this point,” Schenck said. 

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