Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

When employees in our nation’s school districts have voiced life and death fears about in-person learning during the COVID-19 crisis, critics in some parts of the country have railed against teachers, accusing them of not wanting to work.

That’s crazy.

They are working. Providing quality learning experiences for our students – remotely, at home – is very challenging, and our ETHS staff has risen to the challenge. By implementing remote Enhanced E-learning this fall, we are providing structured school days with high expectations for all students. Our teachers have their full teaching loads. This is real school with a reimagined delivery model. Attendance counts. Homework counts. Projects and written assignments count. Assessments count. Grades count. But most important, quality and engaging learning experiences for our students count.

All our teachers spent hours in professional development training this summer enhancing their e-learning skills. They are being creative in developing top-flight lessons and units. They began even before the first day of classes on Aug. 17, reaching out and connecting with their students. Remote learning requires changing mindsets and adding instructional strategies. But it’s well worth the effort to do this for our students. All of us are doing what is necessary for positive learning experiences because we care about our students. We care deeply.

Our dedicated school board and our staff are committed to doing this new model well. COVID-19 will not rob us of the reasons we have dedicated our careers to education: it will not rob us of our concerns for young people, getting to know our students and establishing relationships with them, connecting daily with them, creating interesting and interactive classrooms, enjoying and appreciating what teenagers are thinking about, exploring the questions they have, caring about matters in their lives, seeing their aspiring faces and hearing their youthful voices. We are reinventing, reinvigorating, and reimagining because we are going to beat COVID-19 in our own way at ETHS. It will not rob our students of getting a good education.

We acknowledge the formidable challenges. But just as our community is determined to do what is necessary to beat the public-health threats, ETHS is determined to beat the threats to the education of our teenagers caused by this virus. We will do everything required of us to have a successful school year. This is a learning curve for us all. Fortunately, the school year is off to a good start, and we will keep learning so it keeps improving. Continuous improvement has never been more important, and that is our commitment this fall –  to keep getting better and better at this.

To make this educational model work for our students, their well-being is our top priority. Our Enhanced E-learning is providing all students with accessible learning experiences and abundant additional supports. Teachers are establishing close connections and relationships with students and their families. Notably, we have even repurposed more than 30 district employees and have trained them to work directly with families. Their efforts will emphasize and address equity, focusing on students who require more follow-up to stay connected and get the most out of e-learning. Assigned staff will closely monitor progress and concerns to provide real-time support and direct contact on a regular basis. AM (academic) Support and teacher office hours are built into the e-learning schedule for students and teachers to connect often. All this daily contact with students will help us closely monitor our students’ wellbeing.

COVID-19 is not going to defeat us. We’re smart. We’re creative. We’re adaptable. ETHS staff are dedicated to making this work for all students. We know that students and their families are also being asked to do more during this worldwide crisis, and we applaud all those extra efforts. We recognize this crisis is not easy to handle and is requiring more from all of us. Fortunately, when the going gets tough, we are here to support each other. Reach out whenever you need more support. We are all in this together. That’s being part of our Wildkit family. We can do this.

It’s a great day to be a Wildkit.