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In a message to Evanston Township High School students, family and staff on Jan. 28, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon and District 202 Assistant Superintendent/Principal said the high school is including some “in-person activities.” Instruction, however, will remain remote.
The Coalition to Reopen Evanston Schools, a group of Evanston parents, educators, medical professionals and other community members who advocate reopening Evanston’s public schools, responded by requesting that Evanston Township High School officials unveil a plan for resuming in-person learning.
The District 202 letter is reprinted below:
“The prolonged pandemic is taking a social-emotional toll in our community. Isolation is negatively affecting many of our students. In a regular school year, student wellbeing and belonging are priorities at ETHS and the pandemic amplifies those priorities. Throughout this difficult time, we have consistently committed to providing a variety of activities that connect students with peers and staff in a safe, virtual environment. In February, due to improving local metrics, we will expand these opportunities to include in-person experiences at ETHS. Our goal is to make sure that any ETHS student who wants to come to school for in- person activities may be able to do so in a safe manner.
“While offering in-person opportunities, we will maintain the continuity of instruction by continuing to follow the Enhanced E-learning schedule. In-person experiences will primarily be available on asynchronous Mondays and after school hours (Tuesday through Friday). Office hours (Wednesdays and Fridays) and certain programs like Wildkit Academy (Saturdays) may also serve the goals of some in-person experiences. ETHS will open a Safe Center for Online Learning for students who wish to engage in Enhanced E-Learning on campus at ETHS.
“We know that for many of our students, in-person experiences at ETHS will lift feelings of isolation, as they will have the ability to reconnect with ETHS and their peers.
“Guiding Principles for In-Person Experiences
- Preserve continuity of instruction.
- Provide multiple safe, ungraded, enrichment experiences, with a focus on student wellbeing and belonging.
- Provide students whose home circumstances require a safe, supervised space in the building daily to participate in Enhanced E-learning.
- Provide students an opportunity to connect with peers and staff in a safe, socially distant environment.
“All in-person experiences will adhere to guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Please see the Health & Wellness pages of the ETHS Reopening Plan for information related to protocols and procedures.
“We are excited to offer in-person experiences to students as long as local and regional health conditions permit. We will continue to share updates with students and families as circumstances evolve during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the coming days, you will receive information about how you can participate in these in-person opportunities.
“In-person experiences include, but are not limited to, the areas below:
- Student activities
- Athletics; additional information about winter sports is also available on the ETHS website, based on current IHSA guidance.
- Fine arts
- Hands-on enrichment and instructional activities
- Introduction to ETHS for the Class of 2024
- Capstone experiences for the Class of 2021
- Remote instruction in centers during designated times
- Outdoor experiences on the ETHS campus
- Mindfulness practice experiences in a meditation studio or other spaces
- Special programs offered through Wildkit Academy on site (Saturdays)”
In response to the letter, the Coalition to Reopen Evanston Schools released the following statement:
“While the District’s email mentions ‘in-person experiences,’ ‘in-person opportunities’ and meditation workshops, one phrase is conspicuously absent: ‘In-person learning.’
“We request that ETHS and D202 officials lay out the return to in-person learning plan and schedule for all affected families no later than Feb. 16.”