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Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies, Evanston-Skokie School District 65’s only fully bilingual K-8 program, could close

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) — With 275 students enrolled, the Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies is Evanston-Skokie School District 65’s only fully bilingual K-8 program.

Until recently, it was planned to merge with a new school being built in the 5th Ward. But then the district ran into financial trouble, and now Bessie Rhodes may be leaving altogether. A public meeting scheduled for Monday evening is the last before the school board votes on the issue next month.

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It was four years ago when Andrea Infante-Martinez and her husband moved from Skokie to a home in Evanston. Their choice was made for one specific reason: so that their son, Olivier, could attend the Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies.

“He went to an all-Hispanic preschool, so it was very important to be able to continue that education. Spanish. Diversity. Evanston is very diverse,” Infante-Martinez said.

It’s the same story for Assistant Acosta and her family. So when the school board announced early this year that Bessie Rhodes might have to close at the end of the 2024-2025 school year, parents there took action and organized to try to prevent that.

“It is unjust to close a school that is 90% minority, 90% students of color and almost 40% multilingual students,” Acosta said.

District and school board officials say Bessie Rhodes is an underutilized building with significant capital needs. Keeping it open, they say, makes no financial sense.

“It breaks my heart. Nothing about this is easy or feels good,” said Evanston-Skokie School District 65 Supt. Angel Turner.

By closing it, if that is what the board ultimately votes for, they can eventually expand the dual language program to other high schools in the district.

“They said we’re in a financial crisis, and the way to fix it is to close the school. But my question is: why don’t we stop abruptly? Why are we moving so quickly just to close the school? ?” said Bessie Rhodes parent Myrna Garcia.

And while parents believe the public hearings are being held as a formality to what is already a fact, they promise they will keep fighting. The school board will vote on whether to close Bessie Rhodes on June 10.

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