Confusion about what Governor J.B. Pritzker approved in the area of high school sports with what the District 202 Board and administrators had decided led to a discussion about band at the District’s Aug. 10 Board meeting.
Six people had signed up for the public comment section, and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, who serves as Board Secretary, read them. Each asked the Board to reinstate the color guard contingent to the marching band. More than one letter alluded to fall sports at ETHS, and Superintendent Eric Witherspoon corrected the apparent misperception.
“The Governor did not cancel marching band. Nor did we,” Dr. Witherspoon said.
“We have never planned on a full marching band season, ever. … We made a decision that we are going to be virtual in the fall. Putting 160 people on the field at this time is not a risk that we’re willing to take.
“The Governor threw us a curveball. After we made our decision, he directed at certain sports would go on. So we have we have willingly done what the Governor directed. But we have not approved those sports either. … Our plan is and means to keep this school safe and to stay on virtual [learning] in the fall.
“Marching Band season has been moved with the football season. We’ll hope we can have it. There’s a spring football season. That’s when the marching band will be. … So, while we never canceled it, we pushed it into the spring, just like we would have pushed the other activities. …
“But I think we’re in for a very, very difficult fall. … You know, the governor did not cancel it. The governor threw us a curveball, because he directed us to do some activities that we had no intention,” Dr. Witherspoon said.
Board Vice President asked, “As it stands right now are the fall sports the practices have they been suspended?”
“We still practice,” Dr. Witherspoon said. “So, the Governor listed only a handful of fall sports that he directed, could continue. To my knowledge, every high school in the state is following that direction. And I believe today, August 10, would be the first day.”
Board member Gretchen Livingston said, “My personal view is the Governor should add some clarity around that. But I suspect he’s not inclined, because he hasn’t done so already. … So I think it makes it confusing. I think it makes it confusing for us. I think it makes it confusing for parents and our students.
“And I’m also extraordinarily sympathetic to this idea that the arts and band sometimes appear, despite best intentions, to get short shrift when put next to sports, and I think you know, frankly, this is a little bit on the Governor and not us. And it’s too bad. But I think we’re sort of stuck.
“I would also say, though, that, as Dr. Witherspoon has already pointed out, we have this opportunity to regroup in the spring. And hopefully we’ll be able to do so then.”
Ms. Parsons said, “So not every student will take part in sports not every student will be a part of the band. But when we find students that find their Spark, and we have to remove that for every right reason, it’s hard, it’s hard to do. I just want everyone, including our parents and our students, to know that it is not easy, and we are interpreting what has come down from the state from the Governor. But I just also want us to be reminded that it affects each student so differently, and there’s trauma behind all of this.”
Dr. Witherspoon said, “I will reiterate, we could make a local decision to put students on foot on the field. We could do that. … But I will also point out, our campus kids can’t get into their labs are our math teams have to do everything virtual. It’s not only the arts are banned, it’s everything.
“You know, the Evanstonian [the student newspaper] – they can’t come in and put out a newspaper; they have to do everything virtually. So it’s not targeting any one group. … But we are trying to thread the needle and I just want to remind everybody, it’s not a band or sports. It’s every club. It’s SOAR. It’s book club. It’s every club and group and activity and extra-curricular.
“I may just add optimism. … I am the eternal optimist. And I am highly optimistic that when we get over that third period [after the second wave of COVID-19 and the flu season], if there is a vaccine, that we will not only get a spring season going, but [also] there will indeed be a marching band season in the spring. We will get our seniors back here to enjoy their school on site. Well in time to the graduation and that, that we will start to see that we’re putting this play, if you will, behind us.
“So I know nothing more than all the rest of you. But I must tell you, I am highly optimistic that come spring, we are going to as a nation have turned the corner. Other nations have done it. We know it can be done; you can turn the corner and with a vaccine. I think that we can be highly optimistic that we will see all of the things we’re sacrificing today brought back.”