Washington Elementary School. (Google Maps)

In addition to requiring masks for all students and staff, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will also offer voluntary COVID-19 testing when the school year begins on Aug. 25.

In a message to the community, Superintendent Devon Horton says “we are strongly encouraging all unvaccinated individuals to opt-in to participate in this testing.”

Horton says the tests will occur on a designated day at each school site, once per week. There is no cost, either to the District or to those taking the saliva-based tests, being offered through the University of Illinois’ SHIELD program.

The district is also asking staff and students to voluntarily provide a copy of their COVID-19 vaccination form to help support contact tracing.

District 65 will also incorporate physical distancing, hand hygiene, increased cleaning and daily health certification along with mandatory masks for all those over age two, vaccinated or not.

The “masks for everyone” decision was made, Horton says, “to err on the side of safety for those members of the community who are not yet eligible for vaccination, which includes the vast majority of our students.”

Only those age 12 and up can currently receive COVID-19 shots. District 65 is pre-K through grade 8, so only some middle school students would be eligible for vaccination.

The superintendent says students and staff did “an incredible job” last spring of proper mask wearing when school reopened in a hybrid model, “helping to result in no confirmed cases of spread among students.”

School will be fully in person this upcoming academic year.

Horton says the district will have more information next week and plans a virtual information session on health and safety issues.

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