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Capacity Issues to be Discussed at Monday's D65 School Board Meeting

The board must balance spending concerns with current class-size guidelines.

The sole agenda of Monday night’s District 65 School Board meeting will be to tackle the imminent issues surrounding classroom capacity needs arising throughout the district.

Billed as a preliminary discussion, the meeting will serve to rehash old ideas and information presented when the district was planning for its , but will also act as a platform for board members to propose new approaches to solving capacity problems.

The Problem

Based on D65’s five-year enrollment projections -- created in early November to plan for future staffing requirements, space usage, transportation needs and other planning purposes -- the district grew by over 200 students this past year, will expand by another 100-plus students next school year and will serve 100 more than that number by 2016-17.

A second study, which took into account fluctuating fertility rates and housing turnover, found that within a decade, D65 could swell by somewhere between 200 and 1,100 students.

In order to maintain district class-size guidelines -- ranging from 23 students per classroom in kindergarten to 30 students per classroom for sixth and eighth grades – the board will have to agree on one of a handful of methods it has proposed to solve the problem.

Potential Solutions

In the past, the district concocted at least five “option management plans” aimed at addressing capacity issues:

  • Do nothing and change assumptions.
  • Build space as needed without redistricting.
  • Build a 620-students K-8 school in the 5th Ward and construct eight teaching stations at Nichols Middle School.
  • Build a and construct eight teaching stations at both Haven and Nichols middle schools.
  • Build a 415-student middle school, add four classrooms to Lincolnwood Elementary School and construct up to eight teaching stations at Nichols.

The costs associated with these plans tops out at nearly $48 million (for the proposal put forth in the failed referendum), but another option, which would see the district increase class-size guidelines, repurpose classroom space and move special education classrooms, would require limited construction and might cost very little.

New Suggestions

The school board is not limited to choosing from one of these five options, said Pat Markham, director of communications for District 65, and many of the documents provided by the district in advance of Monday night’s meeting will instead be viewed as resources for devising a new plan of action.

During the aftermath of the March 20 referendum vote, some Evanston residents said they voted down the proposal that accompanied the construction of a and significant additions to district buildings.

As the board renews efforts of addressing capacity needs, it will seemingly have to balance spending concerns with residents’ desires to maintain the learning environment brought about by limited class sizes.

The District 65 School Board will meet tonight (Monday, April 9) at 7 p.m. in the boardroom of the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave.

Frank April 10, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Evanston lost 200+ residents in the last census but yet D65 is projecting 200-1,100 new students in the next 5 years? Obviously, with the economy some people are homeless and having to "shack up" with friends and relatives. But... are some people claiming to be homeless so their children can go to D65 and D202 schools? The numbers don't make sense!
Ms. Johnson April 10, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Or possibly some of the children that go to private schools are moving over to public schools because of the economy.
mij April 10, 2012 at 11:08 PM
You have to remember this same school board couldn't decide if it had a 4 million dollar deficit or a 1 million surplus just a few short monts ago

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