On March 24, District 65 administrators presented an updated analysis of the District’s space needs to the New School-Referendum Committee. The Committee’s charge is to evaluate whether the District should establish a new school in the Fifth Ward.

In its updated analysis, the District projects that the following schools would need additional space by 2012-13: Lincoln – 4-6 classrooms, Lincolnwood – 4-6 classrooms, Oakton – 2-4 classrooms, Orrington – 2-4 classrooms, Haven – 6 classrooms, and Nichols – 6-7 classrooms.

The District’s analysis assumes, among other things, that student enrollment would be the highest projected by either the District itself or by Dr. John Kasarda, that there would be an average of 20 students at the K-5 grade levels and 25 students at the 6-8 grade levels, that classrooms less than 600 square feet would not be counted, that there would be a dedicated art room at each school, and a school should not exceed “80 percent capacity.”

Committee members decided by a show of hands that there was a need for “some” additional space in the District. The Committee did not reach a decision or engage in a back-and-forth discussion on how much space was needed, or at what schools the space would be needed.

One Committee member said if the District’s enrollment projections were used, he did not think there would be a need for space at Lincolnwood, Oakton or Orrington. He said, though, he thought the District needed additional space at Lincoln school and the middle schools. One member said the District appeared to be considering adding space at Lincoln school, and questioned how that would impact the Committee’s analysis.

One said he thought the data suggested there may be a “blip” in student enrollment, which would impact enrollment in the middle schools, but that it may be a temporary increase. Another asked how much flexibility there was in the assumption that schools become stressed when they reach “80 percent capacity.”

Several committee members said there was a need for a new school in the Fifth Ward because 600 students were bused out of the ward to seven other schools, and they lacked a neighborhood school of their own for 40 years. In a passionate statement, one committee member said a school was needed in the Fifth Ward for moral reasons and out of fairness.

By a show of hands Committee members expressed the view, “It’s important to go to school with neighbors.” One Committee member said, though, that going to school on a bus with neighbors was not the same thing as having a neighborhood school.

The Committee will continue discussing these issues at subsequent meetings and it will explore the possibility of obtaining funds through grants and private sources.

Committee members listed seven potential options to evaluate in addressing the District’s space needs: 1) a new K-8 school (5th Ward), 2) a new K-5 school (5th Ward), 3) adjust the assumptions used to assess space capacity and need; 4) add on to existing schools, 5) repurpose existing schools, 6) redistricting, and 7) establish a new school using existing space, such as the high school.

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...