District 65 plans to close Bessie Rhodes school in 2024. (Photo by Adina Keeling)

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 staff presented two scenarios on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday that would redraw school attendance areas in hopes the new map would help address historic inequities. 

The scenarios were developed by the district’s Student Assignment Planning (SAP) committee, a group made up of parents, district staff and community members who have been meeting for nearly a year to carry out this project.  

Both of the scenarios presented to the public included the building of a Fifth Ward school and the closure of the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies, a K-8 magnet school which all students in the district may apply to.

Despite its eventual closure, Bessie Rhodes will remain open through the 2023-2024 school year, said Sarita Smith, District 65’s Director of Student Assignment, at Sunday’s presentation. 

During this time, the district plans to support the school with a marketing campaign to ensure families continue enrolling their children, Smith said. 

“Making sure that Bessie Rhodes doesn’t become a ghost town is very important to us,” she said. The K-8 school has 266 students enrolled, according to District 65 statistics.

The district plans to develop an “aggressive campaign” but details won’t be known until the school board votes to approve the selected plan on March 14, District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton wrote in a memo to the RoundTable, after an inquiry about the nature of the campaign. 

Although the Bessie Rhodes building will be sold in coming years, the programs offered at the school won’t disappear, Smith explained at Sunday’s presentation.  

In the first scenario, magnet programming would be consolidated and taught at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Literary and Fine Arts School. In the second scenario, magnet school programming would be absorbed into the district’s curriculum.

At the presentations, Smith explained that the SAP committee decided to close Bessie Rhodes because enrollment at the magnet school has declined by almost 50% since the 2016-2017 school year, and because the building needs more than $10 million in repairs.

The school’s building is at the “end of its lifecycle,” said Horton. With Walker Elementary School across the street, children in that neighborhood would still be within walking distance from a school, said Smith. 

Closing out the last community meeting on Wednesday night, Horton said there will be some changes made based on the feedback the committee received from the public.

Horton also thanked all the community members, parents, board members, teachers, and district staff who worked to develop the scenarios. 

“We don’t talk about them enough,” he said. “They’re being courageous and brave to take this work.”

Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling is a photojournalist and reporter, covering city news, sustainability, schools, and art. She also investigates mental health systems and environmental injustices in Evanston, and puts together...

2 replies on “District 65 hopes to prevent ‘ghost town’ at Bessie Rhodes before school closure”

  1. Historic inequities ? Equity literally means taking from whites with current dollars and then they phrase it as all students and think they are doing good. Go watch the WTTW recent thing on repatriations and how it’s a joke. Kind of like this town now.

  2. Great. Bessie Rhodes needs $10 million worth of repairs and a new school will likely cost $30 million.

    Where is the money going to come from to construct a new school? Since the district is scared to come to the voters for bond approval they have to take money away from instruction and building maintenance.

    So we can look forward to continued dilapidated schools across the district, large class sizes, and a downgrade in instruction!

    We need to clean house of the Consultant Cabal that is running District 65. This plan is so irresponsible it is ludicrous.

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