Evanston School District 65 announced late Thursday that the districts schools will be closed starting Monday, March 16, with an e-learning program in place through the start of spring break.

Interim Superintendents Heidi Wennstrom and Phil Ehrhardt say the decision by the World Health Organization to declare the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic figured in their decision. “This is an unprecedented situation for all of us and we feel the fear and anxiety within our community,” the two said in a statement.

All buildings will be closed to students, staff, families, and the general public during this time, with the exception of schools serving as polling places on Tuesday, March 17. All activities and events will remain canceled until further notice.

The interim superintendents said the decision was made “based on the facts we have regarding how COVID-19 spreads and in collaboration with public health officials.”

“Given that there are currently no confirmed cases in District 65 or among Evanston residents, schools will remain open tomorrow, March 13,” but the buildings will be closed to visitors, Wennstrom and Ehrhardt said. “This will allow us with the necessary time to collaborate with educators around final plans for e-learning and to allow more time for families to make childcare arrangements. Students who do not come tomorrow will be marked as excused.”

They said further details about the e-learning program would be released soon and that students would not be assigned any work over spring break.

They also indicated that a limited number of Chromebooks would be available for student check out Friday for students who lack computer access at home.

“We recognize that these are extraordinary circumstances and the hardship of closing schools that will be felt by many families,” Wennstrom and Ehrhardt said. “We are working to collaborate with city officials and social service providers to seek solutions to provide food, support, and care for students and families.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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