ETHS Day 1: On task, with mask

Students "happy" and "excited" to be back, say masks are "annoying but necessary" to return to full in-school operations after long pandemic disruption.

Students line up for outdoor lunch on the first day of school at ETHS.

If Monday’s weather on the first day of school was any indicator, the 2021-22 academic year at Evanston Township High School will be sunny and pleasant.

Of course, COVID-19 is again on the rise. There is a “new normal” at school, with everyone required to wear masks. And there is also a big change in how classes are held. Block scheduling means longer class time.

But as junior Ismael Soto said Monday about school in person, “I’m excited. I missed it.”

The coronavirus pandemic forced ETHS onto remote learning from mid-March 2020 through April of this year, when some, but not all students returned part time under a hybrid system.

But now, all 3,700 students are back. There was even an outdoor lunch period, so they could spend time in the sunshine with their friends.

Philip Brannon, a junior, said he was “happy” to be back. “I learn better” in person, Brandon explained.

Colin Benson, another junior, also said he missed in-person school. “I definitely prefer that over e-learning,” he said.

ETHS is encouraging all students and staff who have not yet been vaccinated to get their COVID-19 shots. The school’s online COVID dashboard shows 2,702 students self-reporting as fully vaccinated, which works out to 73% (based on last year’s total enrollment).

COVID vaccination is not required for ETHS students, but vaccination status must be reported to help with contact tracing should there be a virus outbreak. Anyone not reporting will be considered unvaccinated.

The student vaccination rate is similar to all Evanstonians age 12 and over … 79% according to the City. Evanston has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state.

While “mask politics” have been a controversy in some states, the Illinois mask requirement does not seem to be much of an issue here.

11th grader Jacob Bartres called masks “annoying but necessary,” a worthwhile tradeoff because “I think it’s good that we’re in person.”

keywords » COVID-19

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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