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 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.

Ms. Bailey and Mr. Summers told the RoundTable that they planned to present a recommendation to the Board on Oct. 18 concerning the formation of the committee, the charge of the committee, and a timeline.

The Committee’s Charge

Ms. Bailey said the proposed charge of the committee would be to “develop a rationale in support of building a new school.”

In developing a rationale for the school, Mr. Summers said the committee should consider whether it provides an educational benefit; whether it will address the District’s space concerns, and whether it will address equity issues. He said cost was also a factor that had to be considered.

Ms. Bailey said if a rationale for a new school was developed, the committee would need to consider other issues such as the curriculum options, the location, the attendance area, additional operational costs, and whether leasing space was a viable option. “These will be some of the questions,” Ms. Bailey said.

Formation of the Committee

Ms. Bailey said she and Mr. Summers were thinking of recommending that each School Board member recommend one person to serve on the committee, that they appoint two additional members to try to ensure that all interests in the community are represented on the committee, and that they serve as co-chairs. Under this approach, the committee would have 11 members.

They mentioned they would like parents, an educator, a business person, a person with an historical perspective, a person who resides in the area near to the old Foster School, someone connected with Northwestern University and possibly others to serve on the committee.

Mr. Summers said, “We’re trying to keep the process as fair as possible … we want the process to be wide open … It’s a community-wide decision.”


Ms. Bailey said the proposed timeline would be for the committee to submit its report to the Board on Dec. 6, and for the Board to vote on Dec. 13 whether to place a referendum question on the April 5 ballot to establish a new school.

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...