In an effort to help students who fell behind during the coronavirus pandemic, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will ask the State of Illinois for permission to reduce the mandatory number of physical education classes per week and use that time for academic tutoring instead.

Only certain students would be eligible for the tutoring, based on their coursework needs. Those students might miss all or just some of their physical education classes.

Regular PE hours would still be offered for other students.

The school board will hold a public hearing on the issue at 9 a.m. Thursday.

The state requires physical education classes three days per week.

In a document on Thursday’s public hearing agenda, the District explains that “This opportunity could help address any demonstrated gaps in knowledge caused by the COVID-19 pandemic….”

For students in kindergarten through fifth grade, District spokesperson Melissa Messenger tells Evanston Now that much of the tutoring will occur in already existing learning acceleration blocks.

“Parents will simply be notified,” Messenger says, “if their child will be included in the … high-dosage tutoring program.”

It’s a bit different for middle school students, grades six through eight.

Messenger says those students will be “pulled for a quarter-year rotation from one of their specials classes” (either art, drama, media arts, or PE if the state approves the gym class waiver).

However, middle school parents will have the option of having their child participate in the intensive tutoring, or stay with their regular special or gym class hours.

District 65 has more than 7,000 students. Messenger says the hope is to have 2,100 to 2,500 seats for the tutoring program, which works out to approximately 700 to 800 per trimester.

Thursday’s public hearing is at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave.

Update 7/27/21: As part of the tutoring program, District 65 plans to hire more than 60 part-time tutors, and create Academic Skills Centers at 16 schools. The tutoring jobs will pay $18 an hour. Applicants must have either an Illinois Educators License with Stipulations (Paraprofessional) or a Substitute Teaching License.

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