District 65 has scheduled three meetings next month to discuss plans for the new Fifth Ward school.

“We want to service the community,” said District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton.

The city and school district initially were tackling the Fifth Ward Foster Park Campus project together, but the city decided to separate from District 65’s fast-paced schedule on Jan. 9.

Now the city and the district are renegotiating their memorandum of understanding. And the district is moving forward with its original plan to build the new school on Foster Field.

District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton (right) with Oakton Elementary School parent Robert Greenbaum at Wednesday night’s Community Chat ’n Chew. Credit: Gina Castro

A RoundTable reporter interviewed some district officials during its Community Chat ’n Chew session Wednesday night at Yo Fresh Cafe, 635 Chicago Ave.

Meeting dates

Meetings will be held:

  • 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St.
  • 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center
  • 10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, at Christ Temple Missionary Baptist Church, 1711 Simpson St.

District 65 leadership and Cordogan, Clark & Associates, the architectural firm that authored the four proposal renderings, will lead the meetings, discuss details about the proposed concept and gather feedback from the community.

Each meeting will be the same presentation, said District 65’s Chief Financial Officer Raphael Obafemi.

“It’s an opportunity for folks who are going to be impacted by the construction to ask questions,” Obafemi said.

More details about the school building, such as the number of floors it will have, will be revealed at the community meetings, Obafemi said.

“There’s nothing set right now,” he said.

The district and the city decided to part ways on the project because the city needed to collect more community input regarding the future of the Fleetwood community center.

In December the city launched a survey to get an idea of which of the four proposed concept sites the community is leaning toward, but the survey didn’t gather much response from the community.

District 65’s Andalib Khelghati (left) and Raphael Obafemi Credit: Gina Castro

The district is working at a faster pace than the city because of funding, Obafemi said. By building a school in the Fifth Ward, the district is estimating it will save $3.2 million per year that would go toward the lease certificate debt each year. The district spends about $5 million in transporting students, primarily from the Fifth Ward, to schools across the city. But with a school in their ward, students can walk to school instead.

“We need to open this school because the source of paying for the debt services is going to come from savings in transportation,” Obafemi said.

Preserving the green space at Foster Field, which is owned by the district, has proved to be important to city. The district plans to preserve the green space as much as it can.

“There’s no way to build a school at the magnitude that we’re talking about without using the green space that exists right now,” Obafemi said. “So you have to use as much of the space as possible, but whatever tree, for example, that is taken out to be able to build the school will be replaced one for one.”

The district estimates the school will be built in spring of 2025, Obafemi said.

Gina Castro

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the Evanston RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative...

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