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D65 cancels learning camps, in-person special ed programs

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Devon Horton.

The rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases and the growing positivity rate have forced Evanston/Skokie School District 65 to cancel in-person e-learning camps effective at the end of today.

Those camps served about 85 low-income students, helping them while the district was on remote schooling.

The District is also canceling in-person programs for special education students that were scheduled to begin next week.

In an email to the District 65 community, Superintendent Devon Horton says, “We simply cannot ignore the fact that we are experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19.”

Because of the rising positivity rate in Illinois Health District 10, which includes Evanston and Skokie, as well as increases in surrounding regions where many staff members live, Horton says, “I cannot in good conscience resume in-person learning at this time.”

Horton is still holding out hope that District 65 can begin in-person classes on Nov. 16 for the roughly 50 percent of the district’s 7,000 students whose families are interested. However, it would take a major drop in COVID cases and the positivity test rate for that to happen.

Horton says the rolling seven-day positivity average for Health District 10 is currently 7.3 percent, which is more than double the school district’s target for attendance area zip codes.

So as of now, all District 65 students will continue on remote learning, which began at the start of the semester. Horton says a decision will be made by Oct. 30 whether to start in-person classes on Nov. 16 for pre-kindergarten through sixth graders, or stay on e-learning.

If schools do re-open in person, families preferring remote learning for their children would still have it. And seventh and eighth graders would stay on e-learning for an unspecified time even if school buildings do reopen for lower grades.

The learning camp, which began earlier this month, provided adult supervision while the children used their school-issued computers for remote learning classes. Horton says the camps may resume if health conditions allow.

The special education programs that were supposed to start next week at five school buildings will be delayed until at least Nov. 16, Horton says.

District 202, Evanston Township High School, will not try to re-open this semester. ETHS plans to remain on remote learning at least through the end of 2020.

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