District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said there have been “several outbreaks” of COVID-19 at Evanston Township High School, even though the school is on remote learning, and all students and most staff members are at home.

Witherspoon told a virtual meeting of the School Board on Monday night that even with just a few individuals at the school, “We have still had several outbreaks in the building just with essential personnel.”

The superintendent did not elaborate on how many cases there have been, nor what has been defined as “essential personnel.” It was also not clear if the virus spread through contact at the school building, or if the people affected contracted the disease somewhere else.

Witherspoon also reiterated that ETHS will remain on remote learning when school starts for the second semester on Jan. 4. He said the coronavirus positivity rate in the area is simply too high. The superintendent said he hopes the high school will be able to go to a hybrid learning model at some point in the semester.

However, he was emphatic that coronavirus numbers will have to come down first. “We’re not going to play around with lives,” he said. “As much as we wish it to be different, we’ll pay attention to the science.”

Three parents saw things differently in letters read read to the Board. Each parent said there is minimal risk of COVID spreading to children at school, and the risk of emotional damage by not attending school in person is greater than the risk of the illness. The letters were similar to five letters from parents sent last week to the District 65 School Board.

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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