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Board member Mary Rita Luecke proposed that the Board “consider a limited redistricting of the Willard School attendance area that would address the inequities that are caused by the ‘Willard Island.’”
The Willard Island is bounded by Church Street, Ashland Avenue, Emerson Street and Hovland Court and is just northeast of Evanston Township High School. It is in the Second and Fifth wards and is part of the attendance area of Willard School, which is located in the northwest corner of Evanston.
While the boundaries have changed over the years, an area in the Second and Fifth wards has been carved out and assigned to Willard’s attendance area since 1966, when the District adopted its desegregation plan and closed Foster School as an attendance area school. Since that time students have been bused from the “Willard Island” to Willard to racially balance Willard School.
Currently, Willard School is 69% white, 13% black, 12% Hispanic, and 6% other ethnic groups. It is the only school in the District that continues to have a non-contiguous attendance area. At the time the desegregation plan was adopted, there were seven.
Ms. Luecke stopped short of proposing that the District reestablish a school in the Fifth Ward, an issue which she said has come before the Board three or four times since she became a member. In proposing that the School Board address the Willard Island she said, “I think we have seen over time this is an area for which there has been a historical hurt that hasn’t been resolved and I think this would be the first step in helping to resolve that.”
Several Board members commented that the proposal may have spill-over effects that would have to be considered, such as causing overcrowding at other schools. One Board member said that reassigning children in the Willard Island to another school would help resolve overcrowding at Willard School.
Superintendent Hardy Murphy said the administration had been advised about the proposal and had been exploring the implications and considering how it could be accomplished. The Board scheduled a meeting for Jan. 6 to consider data being pulled together by the administration and to discuss the issue.
According to a recent Sun-Times poll, which was based on average scores on the 2008 Illinois Standard Achievement Test, Willard was ranked number 12 in the state among 2,600 elementary schools.