“The 2020-21 school year will not be ‘business as usual,’” for Evanston Township High School students, according to the school’s reopening plan posted on July 17.

Administrators said they will not delay the start of school, but there is no word on if or when in-person learning might resume. ETHS will reopen on Aug. 17 with remote-only learning, at least in the beginning. A task force and subcommittees of about 100 people, which included teachers, students and non-instructional staff, has been working on the plan for several months, school officials said.

Based on guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the plan will continue to evolve, ETHS officials said. They are closely monitoring conditions, which change often, and the plan itself is subject to change as conditions may require.

The plan does allow for the possibility of some in-person instruction though a hybrid model should conditions permit, but there is no mention of how or when this might occur. Though there was discussion at the July 13 School Board meeting of the possibility of in-person instruction on a limited basis after Labor Day, the reopening plan presented on July 17 makes no mention of that. The stated goal is “to return to in-person learning with careful and deliberate planning.”

Starting Aug. 17, every ETHS student will participate in enhanced e-learning until further notice. “School  happens every day through the remote learning model, both synchronous and asynchronous,” the plan states.

The remote learning model has been improved since “crisis learning” in the spring. E-learning at ETHs will include “high academic expectations and requirements for attendance, grading, live synchronous class sessions, and assessments.”

The plan lists these following “General student expectations:”

  • Students will use Google Classroom as Learning Management System in all their classes.
  • Students attend school via e-learning every school day and complete a daily attendance check-in form daily.
  • Students attend live learning sessions during scheduled periods.
  • Assignments are to be completed as assigned.

The school’s enhanced e-learning will also include social emotional learning, and the school has increased access to mental health services for students, resources for families and staff, communication, and school-wide support for social-emotional learning.

Other aspects of the reopening plan include the following:

  • ETHS staff will prepare for the 2020-21 school year remotely.
  • ETHS will not delay the start of the school year.
  • ETHS staff will receive COVID-19 training.
  • Participation in extracurricular activities, including sports, will be determined at a later date.
  • In-person events will not be held on the ETHS campus without administrative approval.
  • There will be a curbside plan for receiving learning materials and classroom supplies.
  • Meal distribution information will be shared prior to the first day of e-learning.
  • Health screenings: ETHS will have a self-certification process to enter the building.
  • ETHS will continue to follow guidelines for wearing face-coverings, social distancing, and other health measures.
  • Frequent cleaning and sanitizing on campus will continue.
  • Visits to ETHS will be kept to a minimum. Visitors must have a confirmed appointment and follow all protocols.

ETHS says it will “continue to prioritize the health and safety of all students and staff. The guiding principles of the plan were to maintain a healthy and safe environment for all students and staff; maintain the high school’s commitment to equity; provide meaningful and engaging academic experiences for all students; address the social and emotional needs of all students and staff; provide consistency and stability for all students and staff; and provide professional development for staff that enhances e-learning.

School officials said they will provide details in the coming weeks, and any back-to-school information will be framed around the remote plan. ETHS will communicate updates via email, website, mobile app, social media, and select virtual events and will notify staff, students and families in advance if and when the reopening details are updated.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...