Evanston, IL

Evanston School District 65 Reconsiders Bessie Rhodes Memo Amid Community Concerns

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

District 65 Revisits Bessie Rhodes Memo: New Developments in the 5th Ward School Plan

The original plan for the Rhodes program in Evanston was to move it to the 5th Ward Evanston school where it would become a “magnet school within a school.” But in a memo recently sent to Rhodes School parents, Interim Superintendent Angel Turner and Student Assignment Manager Sarita Smith spoke about a public meeting that will take place next week held to discuss “how to move forward without a school within a school model.”

The result was parents who were upset, believing the move was off or the magnet school would end. A follow-up memo informed parents that the move is still on, just not as a "schoolo within a school." They were also unhappy because while the Rhodes building will be sold after the students have been moved with the money going to the 5th Ward school, the new school likely will not have a Global Studies program.

Part of the explanation provided by Smith stated, "We won’t have the space for a separate administration office, separate entrance. Having a separate bell schedule would not work.”

The plan originally had the Rhodes magnet students attending school from 8:00am until 2:45pm while the K-8 5th Ward 5 students would attend from 9:00am until-3:35pm.

In the memo Smith added that a school having “two identities” within the same building that were on two different schedules would be to segrkin aegating the Rhodes kids from the other students.

There was also a suggestion within the memo that Evanstons zoning laws contributed to the end of the "school within a school idea." It's unclear these laws contributed other than the proposal to make the building three stories high while the zonion laws limit it to two and a half stories. However, the Evanston City made the decision to allow the building to be three stories high despite the zoning restrictions. There were many other changes as well, most of which involved parking, lighting and traffic flow which also shouldn't have affected the proposal to make it a "school within a school."

One factor which may effect the Rhodes school is the Two Way Immersion (TWI) Spanish/English program for middle schools. The Evanston City Council meeting report discussing this issue states, "In response to questions, [then-] District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton says it’s likely that the Bessie Rhodes program proposed to be moved to the new school is likely to transition to a two-way-immersion (English/Spanish) program.”

According to the memo sent to parents, the meeting will be used to, “Review the original plan and goal; Understand the City of Evanston’s building amendments, and discuss curricular focus desires." The TWI programming will also be discussed. The meeting will be held on September 21 at the school.

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Chicago, IL

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