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Updated Feb. 22. At their Feb. 16 meeting, members of the District 65 School Board gave a nod to using a “cap and transfer” policy to manage student enrollment for the 2010-11 school year. Five Board members were present when the nod was given shortly after midnight, with Tracy Quattrocki expressly opposing the strategy.

The Board also discussed increasing the class sizes permitted under the Board’s class size guidelines by one student just before the nod was given. At the end of that meeting, Board president Keith Terry told the RoundTable the nod was also given to increase the class size guidelines by one student. The RoundTable subsequently learned that several other Board members do not believe a nod was given to increasing class sizes.

A formal vote on the cap and transfer policy and whether to increase class sizes is expected at the Board’s next meeting.

The District projects that a cap and transfer strategy, standing alone, will have an impact at the kindergarten levels at Dewey, Lincolnwood and Willard. A combined stategy is projected to have an impact at one grade level at Dewey, Willard, Lincolnwood and Kingsley schools and at three grade levels at Orrington School. 

The Projected Impact on Individual Schools 

Under the cap and transfer policy, class size enrollment would be capped at all schools, and students in excess of the cap would be transferred to other schools. Lora Taira, assistant director of information services for District 65, said the proposed cap and transfer strategy would apply to incoming kindergartners and students who are new to the attendance area. It would not apply to students who are already attending their attendance-area school, she said. 

Under the plan proposed to the Board on Feb. 16, after a student completes registration for an attendance-area school, the registration materials would be time- and date-stamped to note priority of position. If enrollments in grade level classes in a school are at the class size guidelines, families would be given an option to transfer, but would not be required to do so. If enrollments exceed by two students the class size guidelines, students in excess of that cap would be transferred to another school. Parents of a child required to transfer would be given an option of either a magnet school or an adjacent attendance-area school if there is space in the school. 

Ms. Taira said she expected this strategy would most likely impact students who enrolled after the scheduled February registration dates for kindergarten. 

Increasing the class size guidelines by one student gives the District a little more flexibility in managing student enrollment. The maximum class sizes provided for under the current guidelines are 23 students at kindergarten, 25 at first grade, 26 at second and third grades, and 27 at fourth and fifth grades. 

If the cap and transfer stragey is implemented without an increase in the class sizes permitted under the class size guidelines, the District projects that a total of 28 kindergartners will be transfered in the 2010-11 school year, 15 from Dewey, 8 from Lincolwood, and 5 from Willard.

If the cap and transfer strategy is implemented and the class size guidelines are increased by one student, the District projects the combined strategies will impact the grade levels at the following schools in the 2010-11 school year:

  • At Dewey and Willard, the class sizes at the kindergarten level are projected to be an average of 24 students; the District projects 13 students will be required to transfer from Dewey and 3 from Willard under the cap and transfer strategy;
  • At Orrington, the District projects the number of classrooms at the kindergarten, first and fourth grade levels will be reduced from three to two by increasing the sizes of the classes at those grade levels to an average of 24, 24.5 and 27.5 students respectively.
  • At Kingsley and Lincolnwood, the District projects the number of classes will be reduced at one grade level at each school by increasing class size: third grade at Kingsley, which is projected to have an average class size of 27; and fifth grade at Lincolnwood, which is projected to have an average class size of 27.3 students. 

Ms. Taira projected that the combined strategy of capping enrollments and increasing class sizes by one student would enable the District to reduce six teacher positions from the levels estimated using existing class management strategies. 

Board Comments

It appeared that Board members were not happy with any of the proposed strategies, but a majority seemed willing to go along with the cap and transfer strategy because of the lack of another alternative that a majority could agree on. Most also felt constrained by projected deficits totaling $31 million over the next five years and a need to control operating expenses. 

Board president Keith Terry summed up the situation saying, “There is no perfect solution,” and “Somebody in this City is going to be upset no matter what option is chosen.” 

A number of Board members proposed alternative solutions, about which the administration raised concerns and which failed to gain traction with a majority of other Board members. 

Katie Bailey proposed that the District reduce the “strands” of the Two Way Immersion (TWI) program from six to five by increasing the number of students in the TWI classes to the maximum permitted under the class size guidelines for TWI, which is 24 students per class. Eliminating one strand of TWI (a K-5 TWI program at a school), would free up six classrooms at a school and help reduce overcrowding. Ms. Bailey said if the District is considering increasing the size of general education classes, it should consider increasing the size of TWI classes. 

Kim Weaver proposed phasing in the elimination of a TWI strand, starting with the kindergarten grade at one school and working up. 

Ms. Quattrocki proposed moving the TWI programs from Dewey and Willard to King Lab, which would free up space at Dewey and Willard. 

Administrators expressed concerns about each of these options. They said the District needed to maintain six strands of TWI to have flexibility to serve English- language learning Hispanic students, who often register late. They said moving TWI programs to King Lab would reduce the District’s ability to use King Lab to manage overcrowding at the District’s other schools, which is now a key function of the magnet schools. 

Several Board members expressed an interest in taking a look at redistricting to help address overcrowding issues on a long-term basis.

Jerome Summers proposed establishing a school in the Fifth Ward. Ms. Taira said the estimated cost to build a 12-classroom school was $ 9 million; she added that a 24-classroom school would be needed to truly address the needs of students in the Fifth Ward. Without addressing the cost implications, Dr. Murphy said, a school in the Fifth Ward would solve all the class management issues. 

Mr. Terry floated the idea of building a new magnet school, which he said would solve the class management issues for years to come. He said “put a referendum to the community” to resolve one way or another whether the community would support building a new school. 

In the end, the Board settled on a one-year solution, which is still subject to a formal vote. The Board will likely consider long-term solutions at a later date. Ms. Bailey, who serves as chair of the Board’s Finance Committee, said that committee should consider the possibility of increasing class sizes as a way to address projected deficits. She said she was reluctant to increase class sizes at this time, because a number of the District’s initiatives are increasing the role of teachers in the regular classroom to instruct a wide range of students.


Ms. Quattrocki said she opposed the cap and transfer option. She said under the proposed option, a certain number of spaces at Willard would be guaranteed for students in the Willard Island (which is predominantly African-American and Hispanic), and that no comparable spaces were guaranteed for African-American and Hispanic students at Dewey. She said African-American and Hispanic students often register later than other students, and as a result they may be disproportionately impacted by the cap and transfer strategy which, in turn, would impact the demographics of Dewey School.

The Cap and Transfer Policy as Explained on D65’s Website

District 65 is expecting an increase in the number of kindergarten students next school year. Kindergarten registration begins on Tuesday, February 23rd. To receive priority enrollment at your attendance area school, families must register their incoming kindergarten children during Kindergarten Registration at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Avenue, Evanston, IL. 

In an effort to manage enrollments and eliminate space issues at our schools, the district will cap kindergarten enrollments at 23 students. This is especially important for the families of prospective kindergarten students in the Willard, Dewey, and Lincolnwood school attendance areas where kindergarten enrollments are likely to exceed available classroom space. Families who register after classrooms are full may be administratively transferred to another District 65 school. This student assignment procedure is applicable to any school where enrollments exceed available classroom space. 

If you register February 23-25, have an older child in the district who attends your elementary attendance area school, and you still live in that area, your kindergartner will receive priority in the enrollment process. In addition, if you live within an attendance area school that exceeds its capacity, your child’s permissive transfer or magnet school application will receive priority in the selection process.

When you complete registration for your incoming kindergartner, you will receive a date and time stamped enrollment information sheet for your records. The date and time stamp will determine the order in which students registered (later registrations will be transferred first). 

In May (after magnet school, magnet program, and permissive transfers selections are completed), enrollments will be reviewed to determine if any classrooms are over the class size guideline of 23 students. If so, then decisions will be made about administrative transfers based on the date and time stamp. Families that register after the classroom enrollments reached 23 students will receive a letter in May stating the school(s) that their child is to attend. Families completing registration in May or later will be notified at the time of registration if their attendance area school has reached capacity and school options will be shared.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...