The District 65 New School Committee met on Aug. 16 to review a draft of its report and recommendations to be submitted to the School Board. The report will contain the Committee’s recommendation to establish a new K-8 school in the Fifth Ward west of Green Bay Road, as well as additional recommendations concerning the proposed school itself.
A substantial portion of the meeting was devoted to discussing a revision of the proposed attendance area for the new school.
At its last meeting, the Committee decided that the proposed attendance area would include a triangular area in the Fifth Ward bounded by the Northshore Channel, Green Bay Road, and Church Street, excluding roughly four blocks in the southeast portion of that area. The Committee also decided to include an area south of Church Street and west of Dodge Avenue. (See map.)
On Aug. 16, the Committee appeared to reach a consensus to reduce the size of the proposed attendance area by excluding the area south of Church Street.
The decision to limit the attendance area was driven in large part by a desire to limit the size of the new school to about 600 students. Paul Brinson, who just retired as the District’s chief information officer, presented data showing that 602 K-8 students currently reside in the revised attendance area (excluding students who attend magnet schools). Assuming three strands at each grade level, there would be an average of 22.2 students per class in a 600-student school.
If all parents in the revised attendance area opt to send their children to the new school, Kingsley would lose 113 students, Lincolnwood would lose 74 students and Willard would lose 99 students, according to data presented by Mr. Brinson. The ethnicity of these students has not been reported, but it is virtually certain that Kingsley, Lincolnwood and Willard school would be much less diverse if these students were transferred to the new school.
Students residing south of Church Street and west of Dodge Avenue are currently assigned to Lincolnwood or to Walker, depending on their residence. Superintendent Hardy Murphy said the administration recommends that all students in this area be assigned to Walker School. According to data presented by Mr. Brinson, this would increase the enrollment of Walker School by about 50 students. Mr. Brinson said he thought Walker has the capacity to accommodate these students. Committee members asked for an analysis of the impact.
A report prepared by the District on March 20 reflects that Walker has one excess classroom, using District 65’s enrollment projections. It would have a shortage of two classrooms using a separate set of projections prepared by Dr. John Kasarda, a consultant to the District. These projections did not envision an expansion of the attendance area.
The Committee appeared to be leaning toward a recommendation that the administration and the School Board decide how to assign students in the area south of Church Street and west of Dodge Avenue who are currently in Lincolnwood’s attendance area. The Committee plans to suggest that the Board address this in a way that would not create a non-contiguous attendance area.
The Committee was scheduled to vote on these issues as part of its vote on the final report, which was set for Aug. 30, after this paper went to press. The Committee is scheduled to present its report to the School Board on Sept. 12, and the Board could be asked to vote on the recommendations as early as Sept. 26.