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Absence of concrete reopening plans, along with educational and health risks to students prompt group to call on District 202 officials to answer questions vital to ETHS community
Amid growing concerns about the effects of remote schooling as well as District 202’s continued failure to provide a detailed plan for resuming in-person learning, the Coalition to Reopen Evanston Schools has issued a list of ten urgent questions for school officials.
It called on Dr. Eric Witherspoon as well as Dr. Marcus Campbell and members of the District 202 School Board to provide answers quickly, so that community members can evaluate the high school’s readiness to welcome students and teachers back.
“Our kids are hurting. The failure to resume in-person learning at Evanston Township High School or even to provide credible, consistent metrics for its resumption is simply not acceptable,” said Coalition member Valerie A. Kimball, M.D., an Evanston pediatrician. “A crisis is brewing – not just an educational crisis but one that threatens the physical and mental health of Evanston Township students.”
The purpose of the Ten Questions, added Coalition member Laurel O’Sullivan, is to “elicit important information about how decisions regarding ETHS are being made. The school community deserves more than platitudes and piecemeal plans about extracurriculars.”
The Coalition’s Ten Questions are as follows:
1. When will Evanston Township High School teachers and personnel begin to receive the vaccine?
2. Does District 202 have a hybrid learning plan? What is it, and when was it last updated?
3. Do you agree with the following statement? “Continued remote learning is worsening disparities in educational opportunity experienced by Black and Brown communities.”
4. Does District 202 plan to create a medical advisory board of outside doctors to advise on how to reopen ETHS safely?
5. Several school districts in the region – including Oak Park/River Forest High School, which has demographics similar to ours – have begun or are about to begin in-person learning. Will ETHS consult with those districts and learn from them how to do the same?
6. Will District 202 provide a metric dashboard similar to other school districts’ to outline reopening stages?
7. Does District 202 have a plan for testing students, faculty and personnel?
8. What assurances can you give that Evanston Township High School will provide in-person learning in the 2021-22 academic year?
9. Does the growing mental health crisis among young people in the wake of prolonged school closures create a greater sense of urgency to return students to in-person learning?
10. Do you believe that your statement about when the high school will reopen – “we will respond appropriately at the high school level” – provides the level of specificity ETHS students and their families deserve?
Coalition members said they looked forward to receiving the District’s answers and called on ETHS officials to provide the responses on the District 202 website or another widely-available format. The Coalition pledged to continue its campaign with additional advocacy until in-person learning is fully resumed.
The Coalition to Reopen Evanston schools is a group of Evanston parents, educators, medical professionals and other community members who know that kids do best academically, emotionally, and socially, when they are in school, every day, for a full school day. We believe that Evanston—a city renowned for its diversity and commitment to equity and to science—should be leading the charge to safely reopen schools instead of lagging behind, as we are currently. More information is available at website at https://www.reopenevanstonschools.com.