Proposed School Would Provide Blank Slate for '21st Century' Learning

Proposed features for the possible new D65 building include bigger, more modern classrooms, more natural light and a green roof.

In the almost half century since District 65 last built an elementary school, the methods and mediums of education have changed dramatically.

If voters approve the proposed new 5th Ward school, the district will have a blank slate to create a modern school from scratch.

A referendum on the upcoming March 20 ballot will ask Evanstonians to approve the district’s proposed $48.2 million bond offering that would finance the new K-5 school, as well as fund additions and renovations to other district school buildings.

Pat Markham, director of communications for District 65, said that the district’s recently-released architectural renderings of the proposed school showcased viable ways to make the new building both environmentally friendly and a “21st century school."

New features

Larger classrooms throughout is one notable proposed feature.

“Most instructional environments no longer are set up with rows of desks,” Markham said. “Classrooms are designed in zones, if you will, so some of the features might include a little larger space, in terms of square footage of a classroom. These classrooms will not be 600 square feet. We’re talking about kindergarten classrooms that are 1,200 square feet. Elementary classrooms with 900 square feet.”

Other components of the preliminary building designs include:

* taller windows to increase natural light
* a focus on preserving the lot’s existing green spaces
* a “green roof” to control rainwater runoff and act as a student garden.

Though not visible in the renderings, the building itself was designed to have 18 classrooms, a library media center, an art studio, a music studio, one or several STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) studios, an auditorium, a gymnasium, boys and girls locker rooms, a cafeteria and administrative offices.

“If we’re building a new building and we know we’re going to be offering these kinds of things, we want to make sure that the space we construct can accommodate these specialized learning studios,” Markham said.

Some district administrators have envisioned the new building as a combination school and community center, Markham continued, with gym and library access granted to all Evanston residents during after-school hours.

Early in the process

But the preliminary plans are far from written in stone. Even if the referendum passes, Markham said the district would hold a community envisioning process, when architects, administrators, teachers and Evanston residents would gather to discuss conceptions for the new school.

“It’s just a shell at this point,” said Eduard Blanc, a designer and senior associate at TMP Architecture, the Michigan-based architectural firm hired to create the school renderings.

The current design does not even incorporate a set number of bathrooms, he explained, and there were many other important building features and functions left to be determined until at a future date.

The proposed 5th Ward school would likely sit on the southwest corner of the intersection of Simpson Street and Ashland Avenue, on the same block as the .

District 65’s last construction project was the , 1500 McDaniel Ave., which was built in 2002. During an 18-year span beginning in 1949, the district built nine school buildings, capping the boom off in 1967 with .

Official language

The March 20 referendum reads: “Shall the Board of Education of Evanston/Skokie Community Consolidated School District Number 65, Cook County, Illinois, build and equip a school building, build and equip additions to existing school buildings, and improve the sites of and alter, repair and equip existing school buildings and issue bonds of said School District to the amount of $48,200,000 for the purpose of paying the costs thereof?”

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mij March 04, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Jim March 04, 2012 at 06:59 PM
"Those people" refers to a memtlaity not to specific persons. "Those people" are the ones who know best for everyone and who think that they can solve every problem with policy manipulations and planning. NOT! There are millions of children all over the US who are bused every day to schools. I never minded paying taxes for the schools used or not however the tax burden on Evanstonians, illinoisians and Cook Countians has gotten out of hand not to mention corruption and inefficiency of our government in Illinois. I can appreciate your point of view and would agree with you in better economic times but not now. Perhaps Dist 65 should build a new school in the 5th Ward for less money. I would probably vote yes in that circumstance but not as it stands at 50 million.
Jim March 04, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Annie, I am happy to pay for your children's education. I just don't want to build a new school in Evanston right now. Secondly, the public school system generally in many cases has not been the model for educational success regardless of the amount of money shoveled at it. Thirdly, I would hope that the advocates of "Yes" on this issue will not be flinging the racist, selfish epithet around should the referendum lose.r
Jim March 04, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Annie, We elect folks to the school board and have professionals at Dist 65 precisely to manage the school budgets from available tax monies good times and bad just as you and I have to do with our personal budgets. We do not have the luxury of asking others to maintain our homes. If the folks who are responsible for managing the schools cannot do so, they should say so and step aside for others who have a better sense of resposibility to the residents of Evanston. Congratulations to your daughter on her upcoming graduation. My wishes are for her great success, health and happiness.
jim March 04, 2012 at 09:49 PM
JIm you make a good point about the Board. Reading this past weeks Roundtable would indicate that the Board has some deep financial problems. I also question how you can go from projecting deep deicits one month and five months later project surpluses. Perhaps this is to aid in getting the referendum passed. NAIL TAXPAYERS WITH TWO INCREASES INSTEAD OF ONE.
Chris March 05, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Actually, schools go to referendum all the time. It is a very common and accepted practice.
Martha King March 05, 2012 at 02:35 AM
First, you will have the choice to attend the new school or send your kids where they currently attend school. Your concerns about concentrating so many low income students into one school are valid. That is why the district is looking at using the Community School Model for the new school. I encourage you to learn more about this at http://abetterevanston.blogspot.com/2012/03/community-school-part-i_04.html
Martha King March 05, 2012 at 02:40 AM
The goal at this point in time is natural integration, not desegregation which is a burden to only one community. Mr. Wallace, please take time to watch this film. If you don't have 17 minutes, forward to the 7:18 mark and hear parents, teachers and principals talk about the new school. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmHeRLgs760&feature=youtu.be
Martha King March 05, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Jim, your facts are a bit off regarding the cost of the new school. The new school is budgeted at 20.6 million while the rest of the 48.2 million dollar referendum will build STEM science additions at two of our middle schools and fund science labs and additional work at our other middle school and the magnet schools. http://www.district65.net/referendum/Middle If your home is worth $500,000, you will pay about $161 a year to fund this referendum. You can see the dollar amount at different housing values here http://www.district65.net/referendum/Documents/Taxpayer_Impact.pdf This referendum will continue to keep class sizes small at our schools and provide technology our kids need to be competitive. Not only is this good for education, but for property values as well.
Jim March 05, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Martha, What is "natural integration"? What we desperately needing this country is children who are steeped in preserving the culture of civilization, morality and critical thought as learned through liberal education including language, expression, philosophy, math and history. Science and engineering are trades and can learned by the average liberally educated person. We do not need to turn our elementary and middle schools into farm teams for the trades. The best math and science education is at Kahnacademy.com, free online. One needs only paper and pencil to take advantage of that. As more and more universities are going to online distance learning, the elementary schools should take a hard look at that. Just think, no expensive buildings or facilities.
Jacqui Taylor March 05, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Thanks Sarah. I will be voting yes. Jacqui Taylor
Jacqui Taylor March 05, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Busing has never been good for the kids who are being bussed.
Jim March 05, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Bussing is bad for kids? In Massachusetts especially in Boston most minority kids have been busses to white areas for years and the results have been outstanding. Didn't seem to hurt them. What is different about Evanston. More and more the pro advocates are sounding like we want it because we want it. Suddenly bussing is some sort of terrible rights violation. What about kids whose parents drive their kids to school or kids in rural areas who are busses to school? Are they irreversably damaged as well? What about the poor souls who have to ride the metro to work every day? Maybe we should move their offices to Evanston to make it more fair. After all, some people work in Evanston.
annie March 05, 2012 at 06:18 PM
The bottom line is, people need to get out and vote on 3-20, so they have their own voice. If you don't vote, you have no opinion.
Jersey Girl March 05, 2012 at 10:30 PM
I guess this would be a much easier sell if D65 actually ran the existing schools better. Look at the school websites as an example - they are the worst I've ever seen compared to other schools in the Chicago area. If people weren't forced out b/c their special needs children's IEPs are so poorly managed. If children could be fed edible lunches. If all of a sudden the budget were not balanced by a small miracle one month before the election. If it were a well run district, I would vote yes. But it isn't so I cannot in good conscience give this adminstration more money when they are mismanaging what they have.
boris furman March 06, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Defacto segregation in Evanston schools.Let's call it what it is. "I believe that little children should go to schools in their own neighborhoods with the children with whom they play — it's as simple as that." Louise Day Hicks, chairman of the Boston School Committee and antibusing advocate, Boston, 1965 It would appear that the District 65 school board agrees. I and the vast majority of educators don't. Going back to defacto segregation by building a school that would by design have a student body that is 90% poor and 90% minority is as unfair to students in Evanston in 2013 as it was to students in Boston in 1965. Parents didn't ask for segregated schools. If the district needs money to build new facilities, let them give Evanston's citizens a choice that does not entail building a segregated school. I'm voting against the school referendum. I'm also telling my friends to vote against it. We fought this battle fifty years ago. I can't explain why school administrators would be in favor of designing a school that would concentrate the poorest performing i. e. low income students in one building, unless it's to give the other schools a better shot at meeting state educational standards because they don't have to include these low income kids in their numbers. Or maybe Evanstonians agree with Louise Day Hicks who eventually won a seat in Congress with the campaign slogan, "You know where I stand."
Jim March 06, 2012 at 07:52 PM
As I said above, physical facilities don't educate children. Motivators do. Parents, teachers, peers who are willing to invest themselves unselfishly in the child, sometimes at considerable sacrifice. Physical facilities can be an excuse for not doing that. Making sure that the child has resources at some financial peril. Asking about and participating in homework every day at the risk of receiving criticism from the child. Discipline to keep the child morally and physically focused and safe.Teaching by example that drugs, alcohol and law breaking are destructive and dangerous. Do all of that first and you won't need a new school. In addition, I am quite sure that there would be more fiscal moderation if there were a limit on what taxes could be levied on hapless citizens.
Saulie March 14, 2012 at 03:35 AM
In the spirit of fair and balanced information here's a link to more information about the District 65 Referendum. http://nod65referendum.com/
John Brinkmann March 14, 2012 at 07:24 AM
One must consider the fact that a new school is merely the tip of the iceberg----a new school means staffing it with teachers, administrators, custodians, operating costs, and on and on...Dist 65 is unable to meet the financial demands for the schools we already have---so with all due respect to those supporting the referendum, the bottom line is we can't afford it---maybe someday down the road when hopefully the economy can support such a plan---but for now it's entirely out of the question---Vote No
Aleca Sullivan March 15, 2012 at 04:55 PM
also just read on evanston now that our tax increases are the lowest of the municipalities in cook county.
Aleca Sullivan March 15, 2012 at 04:57 PM
integration at whose expense? why not change our busing patterns and bus some families south if people are in favor of busing?
mij March 15, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Read this Aleca http://evanston.suntimes.com/news/9135733-418/off-base-tax-estimates-may-cloud-spring-referenda.html#.T2JBwe-HLAo.email
Saulie March 18, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Construction firm big donor to pro-referendum group http://evanstonnow.com/story/education/bill-smith/2012-03-16/48478/construction-firm-big-donor-to-pro-referendum-group
Jim March 18, 2012 at 02:49 AM
If Saulie's comment above is true, the whole process is corrupt on it's face and should be removed from the ballot. The construction company should lose it's business license.
millie March 18, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Jim the story is true: Construction firm helps Evanston pro-school-bond-referendum group BY KAREN BERKOWITZ kberkowitz@pioneerlocal.com March 17, 2012 1:02AM
millie March 18, 2012 at 02:14 PM
The Mount Prospect-based firm that manages construction on School District 65’s building projects is the largest contributor so far to Citizens for a Better Evanston, the citizens’ committee marketing the $48.2 million bond question. Campaign reports filed with the State Board of Elections show that NEPCO Inc. made a $2,500 contribution in February. Nicholas Papanicholas Jr. of NEPCO has been the construction manager for a host of District 65’s capital projects including recent and ongoing additions to Dewey, Willard and Lincoln schools.
Jim March 18, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Ah yes. The transparency and forthrightness of the Evanston do-folders. And not even an Evanston company. Maybe NEPCO would like to pay my property tax for me. Why am I not surprised.
Jim March 18, 2012 at 03:45 PM
There is no question that the folks who started Citizens for A Better Evanston are well intentioned and nice people. But they are not exhibiting good judgement in an objective way. Vote NO
Jordan Graham March 20, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Hello all, Regardless of what happens with the D65 referendum, Evanston Patch will run a story tomorrow night or Wednesday morning covering the results, and we will be looking for citizen feedback (from both referendum advocates and opponents). Any Evanston resident willing to participate in an interview tomorrow night after the results are in, please send me an email at jordan.s.graham@gmail.com and include your real name, telephone number and profession. I am currently filling in as interim editor of Evanston Patch for Emily Stone. Thanks in advance for your help!
Lisa G. April 13, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I guess the majority of folks in the 5th ward had no opinion on this, since they had the lowest turnout of any ward in the city.


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