Oakton Elementary School would have lost its TWI classes under an initial proposal by the Student Assignment Planning committee that was later revoked. (District 65 photo)

Dedicated to modernizing Evanston/Skokie School District 65, the Student Assignment Planning (SAP) committee put forward its plan to build a K-8 Fifth Ward school and close down the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies at a Curriculum and Policy Committee meeting on March 7.

At the meeting, Student Assignment Director Sarita Smith announced that despite initially proposing some programming recommendations, the SAP committee will hold off on any decisions and allow community members to provide input. 

“We really want to wait until the implementation phase, where we can meet with different schools, and families and educators in those programs,” Smith said. 

One of the SAP committee’s programming proposals that was later revoked recommended shifting the Two-Way Immersion (TWI) program at Oakton Elementary School to Dawes Elementary School. 

If this shift occurred, Dawes would offer “double-strand TWI,” or two TWI classes per grade, and Oakton would not offer the English-Spanish program at all, Smith explained. 

Board Vice President Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan inquired about the recommendation to move the program. 

Smith said a study conducted several years ago evaluated the accessibility of the district’s emergent bilingual services and found that TWI students in schools offering only one strand of the program, or only one class per grade, felt more isolated from the school community than students in schools offering double-strand TWI.

The study strongly recommended that schools offer double-strand TWI to build a stronger school community. 

Lindsay-Ryan’s children went through the TWI program, and she said there is an added level of excitement when students start a new school year not knowing who their teacher or classmates will be. “It is a different dynamic,” she said. 

In rethinking the district’s structure, there will be an emphasis on emergent bilingual students and ensuring they feel welcome within the school community and have the same opportunities as other students, Lindsay-Ryan said. 

Smith added that community surveys found a big push, by both parents and educators, for more TWI programming.

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...