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The RoundTable published a lenthy editorial supporting the 2012 Referendum to establish a new school in the Fifth Ward. To review the editorial in its entirety, click on the link below. An excerpt from the editorial is published below:
“The central core was once the attendance area for Foster School, which was converted to a magnet school as part of the District’s desegregation plan, implemented in 1967.
“Under the desegregation plan, Foster School, which was 99 percent African American, was closed as a neighborhood school and converted into a magnet school with innovative programs to attract white students to the school and thereby desegregate it. In its first year, 650 students were accepted at the magnet school, about 75% of whom were white students. Many white students were bused to the school at their parents’ expense.
“As a second part of the desegregation plan, all of the students who had previous-ly attended Foster School were reassigned to new schools. Some were reassigned to schools within walking distance of their homes. However, a substantial portion of the area around Foster School was carved into seven districts, and children in those districts were assigned to one of the seven schools on the District’s periphery to desegregate those schools. Approximately 450 African American children were bused to schools under this plan.
“In the 1970s, District 65 was faced with a declining student enrollment, and the School Board closed seven schools. As part of this process, Skiles Middle School was converted from an attendance area school into a magnet school for grades six through eight in the mid-1970s; and in 1979 the K-5 magnet program at the old Foster School was moved to Skiles. The school became a K-8 magnet school, renamed Martin Luther King Magnet School. Because the old Foster School building would no longer be used for a magnet school, many African American leaders urged at that time that a neighborhood school be reestablished in the building. Options included closing Willard or Orrington schools and busing white children from those areas to a reestablished Foster School. Instead, the Board decided to permanently close Foster School. Board members said that closing Willard or Orrington schools would have necessitated a more dramatic restructuring of attendance areas than closing Foster School because Foster school had not been used as an attendance-area school since 1967. In addition, reopening Foster School would have required two more school buses than the adopted plan. On May 11, 1979, the Evanston Human Relations Commission issued a report. By closing Foster School, the report said, the District eliminated “a primary key-stone of Community integrity” that would leave “West-Central Evanston in a precarious and vulnerable position.” It would also eliminate any possibility for children in that area to walk to school and continue to place an “overwhelming burden of busing” on those children to desegregate Lincolnwood, Orrington and Willard schools.
“Since 1979, many African American leaders have opposed busing students from the central core to desegregate the north-end schools and have called for the District to establish a new school there. One person put it this way: “Anti-busing has always been a topic of conversation in the black community. This attitude was based on the concern that black children had to bear the burden of integration and that traveling outside of their community has made it difficult for parents to participate in the school and in their child’s education.” Another concern is that the African American community lost an important institution when Foster School was closed. African American leaders say the school had been a source of pride and that it provided a foundation for parental involvement, civic engagement and neighborhood cohesiveness for decades. They say the central core has deteriorated as a result of the loss.
“We think the District should restore a school to the central core. A neighborhood school will substantially reduce involuntary busing. It will foster parental involvement and student engagement in learning. It will provide an opportunity to develop an education model and a pipeline of services to ensure that all children enter kindergarten ready to learn and enter middle school on track to college and career readiness.
“By taking this stand, we do not in any way question the decision to desegregate the District’s schools. That was an important decision for this community. We, as do many Evanstonians, continue to value diversity in our schools. Forty-five years later, though, it is hard to justify busing hundreds of African American and Hispanic students from their neighborhood to Evanston’s north-end schools in order to diversify those schools, if their parents would prefer to send them to a school in their own neighborhood.
“Our support for the new school is predicated on the Board’s decision that all parents in the central core will have a choice to send their children to the new school or to the current attendance-area school. This is crucial to our support of the school.”
Our full editorial is available here.