District 65 Curriculum and Policy Committee.

If you think you or your children are “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19, and your kids attend Evanston/Skokie School District 65, the previous term no longer applies.

As of now, the phrase “fully vaccinated” is being replaced with “up to date,” which means a booster shot in addition to the two Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations, or one Johnson & Johnson.

The district’s Curriculum and Policy Committee was briefed Tuesday afternoon on a variety of coronavirus-related topics.

The district has purchased 40,000 N95 and KN95 masks, half for students, the other half for staff. Those masks provide “the highest level of protection,” according to Assistant Superintendent Romy DeCristofaro.

Despite having all those masks, DeCristofaro said “there is not an unlimited supply,” and pointed out that a paper surgical mask underneath a cloth mask also provides good coverage.

Another major change is a reduction in the number of days a student with COVID or exposed to the illness has to isolate or quarantine. In line with new federal and state guidelines, the time period is now reduced to five days from the previous 10, except for children younger than age five, or those with mask exemptions.

Committee members also learned that the recent omicron surge has led to an increase in chronic absenteeism among some students.

Isaiah Palmer, the district’s dean of climate and culture, said that some families are keeping all of their children home for fear of them contracting COVID, even if a particular outbreak is only in one classroom or school building, and the children themselves are neither ill nor exposed.

Board member Sergio Hernandez pointed out that many Evanston families live in multi-generational homes, particularly because of the high cost of living.

“A lot of folks” in such households, Hernandez said, “are afraid to send their kiddos to school, even if the older family members are fully vaccinated.”

There was a bit of good news on the COVID front. The number of newly positive student cases was 60 on the January 18 district dashboard, a more than 50 per cent reduction from 133 one week before.

However, don’t cheer too loudly just yet. As Hernandez noted, “there’s always constant change, because COVID is like that.”

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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