The second semester at Evanston Township High School opened this week the same way the first semester did — online. But District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said, “@e are committed to go to the hybrid model some time this semester.”
Witherspoon and ETHS principal Marcus Campbell addressed the coronavirus pandemic Friday morning on their “E-Town Live” YouTube program.
The superintendent said ETHS will stay on remote learning at least through January, and with a new, more infectious strain of COVID-19 starting to spread through the country, there’s no target date for re-opening the building.
“We stay up all night wrestling with these decisions,” Principal Campbell stated. “We put equity at the forefront, so what works for one district may not work for one like ours,” he added. ETHS is more diverse than many other districts, and COVID-19 has taken a higher toll on Black and Hispanic communities.
Witherspoon said the decision on when to bring students and teachers back in person ultimately falls to him and other top school officials. “That is a huge responsibility, and we can’t pass that responsibility to anyone else. We own those decisions,” he said.
Witherspoon said ETHS leaders take that responsibility incredibly seriously. “We’re talking about the health and lives of teenagers, staff, and teachers,” he stated.
The superintendent added “we keep up to date every single day” with data from the “best sources,” the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Evanston/Skokie District 65, the elementary school feeder district for ETHS, recently announced formation of a community advisory board, made up of local doctors, parents, and District 65 staff, to help that district decide when to reopen in person. Such a board was demanded by a parents group, the Coalition to Reopen District 65.
Witherspoon never mentioned such a possibility for District 202, but his comments made it seem clear that such a panel is not an option should it be suggested.
He said ETHS is “tweaking” plans for hybrid school. Those changes will be made public next month. Under a hybrid system, some students attend in person while others study remotely. The groups alternate, with each group receiving some in-classroom education and some schooling remotely.
Witherspoon also urged all parents, staff, and students over age 16 to fill out the City of Evanston’s online vaccination interest form, which can be accessed at www.cityofevanston.org. Individuals filing out the form will be advised when those in their age group or job category (medical and essential workers) will be able to be vaccinated.
The superintendent also thanked teachers for talking to their students about the violent and destructive takeover of the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump. Witherspoon urged students to “pay attention to what goes on. Listen and read, but do know that things change. Things that seem so devastating today,” he said, “can be different in a few years, months, weeks, or even days.”