On Oct. 4, the District 65 School Board decided by consensus that Board members Katie Bailey and Jerome Summers will serve on a committee to explore putting a referendum on the ballot to establish a new school in the Fifth Ward. The charge of the committee, as stated at the meeting, is to develop an argument for a new school. 

The proposed new school that has been under discussion by the Board is for an 18 classroom school that would be adjacent to the Weissbourd-Holmes Family Focus building, the site of the old Foster School. The estimated cost to build a new “basic school” is $14 million. 

Board members were asked to submit names of other persons to be members of the committee. The number of persons who will serve on the committee has not yet been decided. The Board will be asked to approve the committee’s membership at its next meeting. Ms. Bailey and Mr. Summers will  submit a recommendation to the Board. 

While the Board has not yet formally decided on the committee’s precise charge, Ms. Bailey suggested that the committee analyze the need for a new school from three different perspectives: a) to provide additional classrooms to meet the needs of additional students the District will be required to serve in the next five to ten years; b) to correct an inequity in which students in the Fifth Ward lack a neighborhood school and are bused to 13 different schools throughout the District; and c) to provide a creative educational model. 

 Board members suggested that the committee should also consider whether the proposed school would be an attendance area school or a magnet school; what the attendance area of the proposed school would be; what the cost to build the new school would be and what would the operational costs be; whether leasing space in the Family Focus building or at ETHS would be viable options to address the District’s space needs; whether adding classrooms to existing school buildings would be better options than building a new school in the Fifth Ward; and other issues. 

There appeared to be a consensus that parents of children in the Fifth Ward should be surveyed to obtain their views about a new school once specifics of the proposed school were decided upon. 

Ms. Bailey held open the possibility that the committee would not be able to complete its task by Dec. 13, the date to place a referendum on the April 5, 2011 ballot.  

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...