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‘Can’t declare victory yet, but a lot of good signs’

Evanston Township High School Superintendent assesses the state of the school, a year after the pandemic shutdown began.

Marcus Campbell and Eric Witherspoon.

For the past COVID-dominated year, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon and Evanston Township High School principal Marcus Campbell have been hosting “E-Town Live” YouTube programs, as a way of updating the community about the virus and the school.

ETHS has been on remote learning since mid-March last year when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

With some ETHS students about to return to the building starting April 14 as hybrid school begins, this morning marked the final “E-Town” pandemic-year show. It was in part a thank you to students, parents, and staff … and in part an acknowledgement of how much more is needed in order to build a just and safe society, beyond just dealing with the coronavirus.

First, some signs of things getting back, if not to normal, at least to a bit less abnormal. On Monday, ETHS seniors are supposed to pick up their graduation caps and gowns. On April 14, juniors will take the SAT college entrance exam. The state is not requiring current seniors to take those tests, even if they did not take them as juniors.

Advanced placement (AP) exams are another matter. Witherspoon said those tests are still required (in May) for those hoping to earn college credit, despite all of the disruptions from the pandemic. The organization which runs the exams is “giving us very little flexibility,” Witherspoon said.

The school administrators also talked of sad and tragic events, the recent deaths this month of two recent ETHS graduates, Matthew Bussey and Jose Sanchez-Guerrero. The cause of deaths were not mentioned, although Bussey died after an automobile crash, and Sanchez-Guerrero was shot.

“To lose a student in any school is just devastating,” Witherspoon said. Campbell added that this school year “started with a loss” with all of the COVID-related restrictions, and there is now “continued loss and a lot of grief” due to the deaths of the two alumni.

The horrible multiple homicides in Atlanta, where most of the victims were Asian, were also discussed. Campbell noted the “far-reaching impact of violence and racial injustice,” and that “so much more needs to be done.”

Witherspoon said, “Schools need to be key in eradicating racism and social injustice.”

And soon, for those ETHS students choosing the in-person option, the school building will reopen. (Those wanting to continue on fully remote learning can do so through the rest of the school year).

Witherspoon said “we know we can make ETHS more welcoming” and will use the upcoming hybrid experience to work on just that.

“It has been,” he added, ” a heck of a year.”

keywords » COVID-19

Jeff Hirsh

Jeff Hirsh

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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