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District 65 considers vaccination requirement for staff

Superintendent says idea is being discussed with employee unions.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 might require teachers and other staff members to get COVID-19 vaccinations for the upcoming school year.

“This is new,” said Superintendent Devon Horton, on a community Back to School webinar on Monday evening.

Horton said the district is discussing the possibility with employee unions, as a result of the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.

“We are very in tune with the shifts necessary as the Delta variant sweeps the nation,” Horton said. More information is coming soon.

School starts for kindergarten through eighth grade on Aug. 25. The early childhood program starts Sept. 1.

Horton and other District 65 administrators outlined various health and safety precautions, as school opens fully in person for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020.

Students and staff will be required to wear masks in school buildings and on school buses. Physical distancing will be enforced, and there will be hand sanitizer in all classrooms.

The district will also have optional COVID-19 testing for students and employees. Unless parents opt out, their children will be in the testing program.

The most emotional part of the webinar came from Dr. Sharon Robinson, a pediatrician at NorthShore University HealthSystem and a District 65 parent.

Robinson said last year she was opposed to having children return to school for in-person learning.

But, Robinson said, “I was wrong. I truly underestimated the powerful impact that our teachers and school environment have on social-emotional learning.”

“Every child suffered” from remote learning in one way or another, Robinson said.

She added that “it is critical that our children are back in school … and we can do this.”

While Evanston has among the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, there are still individuals who have not gotten shots.

Only those 12 and older are eligible, so most District 65 students cannot receive the vaccine yet.

However, Robinson said “I am begging everyone to get vaccinated if you are 12 or older. That’s the only way this is going to end.”

District 65 and the City of Evanston will hold a public vaccination clinic at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center on Aug. 28, with the follow-up second shot on Sept. 18. The vaccinations are free.

Jeff Hirsh

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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