Evanston/Skokie District 65, alongside city staff and architecture and construction firm Cordogan Clark, will present four potential designs of the new Fifth Ward school campus at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at a community meeting at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St.

Representatives from Cordogan Clark are expected to present renderings and blueprints covering four design concepts for the school campus, according to District 65 Manager of Student Assignments Sarita Smith.

View of Foster Field from the corner of Simpson Street and Dewey Avenue. Credit: Duncan Agnew

In recent months, Smith and other district officials have said that the new school, which will reside on the site of Foster Field next to Fleetwood-Jourdain, will house kindergarten through eighth grade students in a 118,000-square-foot building. The school will also house the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies, one of the district’s two K-8 magnet schools.

The existing Bessie Rhodes building will stay open until the Fifth Ward school officially opens, at which point the district will likely sell or repurpose that building.

When the school board approved plans for the new school last spring, officials said it would open for the 2024-2025 academic year, but Smith’s presentations to community members this fall said the school could open “as early as” 2025.

“We do know that the build time is going to be between 18 and 24 months, so we’ve stopped saying dates at this point because construction is a real thing, and so is COVID,” Smith said at a school board Curriculum and Policy Committee meeting on Monday. “So we want to make sure we’re giving a time span on when we break ground, how much time it will take to actually build the school.”

In August the city also expressed concerns about the size and scale of the project, given the limited building space provided by Foster Field. At the time, Deputy City Manager Dave Stoneback and his team proposed a renovation or full rebuild of Fleetwood-Jourdain to preserve more green space and recreational areas on the property.

As a result, the fate of the current Fleetwood-Jourdain building remains a key question mark in the plans for the new school, and Cordogan Clark’s design proposals will likely involve suggestions for how best to alter or rebuild the community center property to make enough room for the school project.

Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center on Foster Street is a pillar of Evanston’s Fifth Ward. Credit: Duncan Agnew

Parents, families and community members have also expressed a desire for more consistent communication from the district about the latest updates on the project and the current timeline for the building’s completion. Given uncertainties surrounding construction and final approval of a design concept, creating a timeline may not be feasible yet, Superintendent Devon Horton said Monday.

“We can’t quite do a timeline yet, but we could put something together that would explain that the building of the school itself is 24 months, and that we would make a decision 12 months prior to the opening of the school,” Horton said.

Evanston residents attending Tuesday’s meeting will have the chance to ask questions and provide feedback during a live question and answer session, and “a short survey will be collected and incorporated into decision making,” according to the event description on the District 65 website.

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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