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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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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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