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Important 5th Ward School Update October 24, 2023

Dear District 65 Community -

At last night’s regular meeting, the Evanston-Skokie School District 65 Board of Education continued its discussion regarding planning for our new 5th Ward school, including current projected costs, building configurations and student capacity, in light of District-wide financial considerations. 

To inform the difficult decisions we are facing, District Administration provided the attached memorandum, which focuses on three options:

  • ORIGINAL PLAN: The proposed three-story, K-8 school serving 1,000 students as approved by the Board in March 2022
  • OPTION 12 (K-8): A two-story school serving 750 students
  • OPTION 3 (K-5): A two-story school serving 600 students

The memorandum and the presentation from the District provide detailed costs, the impact on programming and student placement, the current and long-term financial condition of the District, and construction timeline for these three options. All of these options incorporate LEED Silver sustainability features. 

At tonight’s meeting, our School Board and Administration continued a robust and thoughtful dialogue to determine next steps regarding the 5th Ward school. Based on that discussion, the Board reached an initial consensus to plan for a two-story, K-5 5th Ward school serving 600 students (OPTION 3) at a current estimated cost of $46.3 million. Key factors in reaching consensus around this option included the ability to serve all 5th Ward students in Grades K-5 and financial considerations. The District’s architects and independent financial advisor will now begin to prepare revised building and corresponding financial plans for the Board’s discussion and a formal vote at an upcoming meeting. 

The Board began discussions about the potential placement of the Bessie Rhodes School Two-Way Immersion (TWI) program, as well as the importance of middle school culture and climate. In addition, the Board discussed the District’s declining enrollment projections, building utilization and the ongoing need for significant budget cuts in the upcoming academic years, as well as other needs for our aging buildings.  These topics will continue to be addressed at public Board meetings as planning for the new 5th Ward School proceeds. 

To support greater transparency and accountability moving forward, the Board committed to add a placeholder item to the agenda for updates and discussion around the 5th Ward School at all future Board meetings. 

The recording of last night’s Board meeting will be available on our website within 48 hours. We will continue to provide updates to our District families, staff and community members about our planning and next steps. 

As always, we thank you for your support of District 65, our schools and students. 

Dr. Angel Turner (she/her)
Interim Superintendent