ETHS is preparing to open for in-person instruction for the first time in three weeks on Monday, Jan. 10. (RoundTable photo)

In a Friday afternoon message to students and families in the district, Evanston Township High School Superintendent Eric Witherspoon communicated plans for both continued and expanded efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 during the second semester, which is set to kick off in-person learning on Monday, Jan. 10.

As of Jan. 7, 20 students and 29 staff members at ETHS have COVID-19, according to the latest update to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard. Starting Tuesday, Jan. 11, all students, regardless of vaccination status, will be tested each week during their physical education classes, Witherspoon said. The next update on active COVID-19 cases among students and staff is scheduled for this Friday, Jan. 14.

“ETHS will continue structured recurring testing in order to identify trends in COVID-19 prevalence and transmission, and identify asymptomatic cases early to isolate and quarantine,” Witherspoon wrote in his message to the community.

School officials also met with representatives from the Evanston Health and Human Services Department over the winter break to go over COVID-19 mitigation strategies, according to Witherspoon. Among other things, those conversations resulted in an increased emphasis on universal mask wearing, with Witherspoon encouraging students to “select face masks that have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric” and “completely cover your nose and mouth.”

Additionally, ETHS has adopted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new quarantine guidelines for K-12 schools. Those new guidelines call for close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual to isolate for five days if they are unvaccinated, received the one-dose Johnson and Johnson but no booster or if they are over 18 and have not yet received a booster shot. However, the CDC has said that close contacts do not need to quarantine if they are over 18 and fully vaccinated and boosted, if they are five- to 17-years-old and fully vaccinated or if they have had a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 90 days.

Witherspoon also added that ETHS will use expanded eating spaces when possible and is continuing to look for opportunities to hold vaccine/booster clinics for students and families.

“Check the ETHS online calendar for events that may be held virtually to limit the number of large gatherings,” Witherspoon said. “ETHS may cancel non-essential events, activities, and meetings as warranted.”

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...