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Dr. Taya Kinzie (seated from left), Dr. Sharon Robinson and Dr. David Soglin provide the ETHS District 202 School Board with an update on COVID-19 on Oct. 11. (Photo by Duncan Agnew)

Meeting with Evanston Township High School District 202 board members Monday night, Dr. Taya Kinzie, Associate Principal for Student Services, announced that 96% of school staff and 77% of students are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Dr. Sharon Robinson, a pediatrician at Northshore University Health System in Evanston, and Dr. David Soglin, Chief Medical Officer at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago, both serve on the school’s Medical Advisory Group and attended the Oct. 11 meeting to brief board members and answer questions.

Dr. Robinson and several School Board members noted that the official student vaccination rate could be an undercount because some students simply haven’t provided the school with their proof of vaccination yet. With mandatory COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated students beginning next week, ETHS expects vaccination numbers to rise as more students show proof of receiving the shots to avoid the regular testing program, Board President Pat Savage-Williams said. 

“I think there is still some vaccine hesitancy among some parents for various reasons,” Dr. Robinson said. “It’s difficult to know what to do now because I feel like we’ve done everything that we can do.”

But Dr. Soglin and board Vice President Monique Parsons emphasized that continuing to have difficult personal conversations with unvaccinated community members remains key to helping people recognize that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. 

“We need to stay engaged with those 23% [of students] that are not [vaccinated]. There’s a far cry between COVID vaccine hesitancy and the anti-vaxxers who are all over social media spreading disinformation,” Dr. Soglin said. “I don’t think we stop that engagement. We have to continue person by person and break down those barriers.” 

Later at Monday’s meeting, Dr. Pete Bavis, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, presented a new project aimed at developing an official “portrait of an ETHS graduate.” According to a memo from Dr. Bavis, this portrait “consists of a list of traits that we want our graduates to possess,” but it will not replace any reports on academic achievement using data like standardized test scores or performance on Advanced Placement exams. 

Instead, building a portrait of a graduate will help ETHS address what is missing from the curriculum and create a vision for the basic skills and habits that all students should hone in their high school careers, Dr. Bavis said. Based on early conversations with school leaders, teachers and students, ETHS identified four possible phrases to include in the portrait as “critical thinkers, curious learners, confident communicators and compassionate leaders.” 

“I’d like to push us a little bit more forward, and I would argue that these four C’s are not very, in my mind, progressive, and I think they could be rationally found in a lot of situations already,” Board member Mirah Anti said. “So I would push you to use some culturally responsive teaching.”

Consulting with each part of the community, from students to parents to even local businesses, will be an essential part of constructing this portrait throughout the current academic year, Dr. Bavis said. His goal is to have a formal draft of the portrait ready and available by this coming spring for discussion and possible approval by the board. 

To close out the meeting, Savage-Williams announced that early conversations regarding the search for a new superintendent to replace Dr. Eric Witherspoon are underway, but the board is not ready to reveal the details of the search process to the public. 

“We will make sure this process includes and involves all of the stakeholders: faculty, staff, students, parents, community members,” she said. “And we are in the process of engaging a search firm to seek their guidance through this process.”

The District 202 board will next meet for a joint gathering with District 65 on Monday, Oct. 25. 

 

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  1. The unvaccinated students are denying their peers, and other developing children, the basic human dignity of showing one’s face. With all the mask messaging, we have inadvertently understated or even denied the importance of the human face, not just in child social development, but in their quality of life. I see adults in coffee shops and restaurants all the time, unmasked. Why aren’t adults paying the same price as the kids? Are we masking students simply because they’re easy to push around? Or because we don’t have the guts to make life miserable for the unvaccinated? Get tough on the parents, ETHS. Work with the City of Evanston to compel these holdouts to cooperate.