District 65 board members in tonight's virtual meeting.

More than 1,000 employees of Evanston/Skokie School District 65 are calling for specific safety precautions before the district brings students and staff back for in-person classes.

In a letter read at Monday night’s virtual Board of Education meeting, presidents of the District’s five collective bargaining groups, including teachers, support staff and maintenance workers, asked for training for personal protective equipment, safety practices and cleaning procedures before school reopens, “to keep our school community and the Evanston community safe.”

District 65 has been on remote learning since school began, but officials hope to return to in-person school on Nov. 16 for families requesting that for their children. However, the deteriorating coronavirus situation makes reopening less likely. In fact, early return for special education students which was supposed to take place Monday was cancelled due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the area.

The unions are also asking that ventilation and air quality be “up to CDC [Centers for Disease Control] standards” before employees go back into school buildings, as well as wanting to know how air quality will be monitored as the weather changes.

“We are all looking forward to returning to physical school space,” the unions say, “but it must be done safely.” The unions are also concerned about what is happening in some other districts … starting in-person school, only to go back to remote learning when there are COVID outbreaks in the schools.

District officials did not comment about the unions’ requests. However, Superintendent Devon Horton said he will announce on Friday whether school will indeed reopen on Nov. 16. “We miss our students and want them to be in school,” he said, “but we don’t want to jeopardize the lives of students, family and staff.”

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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