Marcus Campbell and Eric Witherspoon.

While Evanston Township High School will definitely start the second semester Jan. 4 in remote learning, school leaders hope to switch to a hybrid system some time during that semester.

However, ETHS Principal Marcus Campbell says, “The hybrid plan is not perfect nor an ideal scenario. We are asking the community to be patient with us because we’ll have to live with it.”

Campbell and District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon discussed the upcoming semester on their “E-Town Live” YouTube program this morning.

In a hybrid model, some students are in the building while others learn at home remotely. The groups alternate so that all students receive some in-person classes.

Witherspoon said while “normal” pre-pandemic school is the best form of instruction, remote education is actually better than hybrid for student learning. However, he said, the social-emotional aspect of being in the building, even under a hybrid system, is a worthwhile tradeoff if COVID conditions allow.

Witherspoon also said those conditions will not allow any type of in-person school in January, and possibly into February as well. He said thousands more deaths are expected nationwide over the next several weeks, and added “we will follow the science” when it comes to reopening the ETHS building.

The superintendent also had strong words for some people who he said are accusing teachers of not wanting to work hard during the pandemic by preferring remote education.

“That is absolutely false,” he said. “Teachers are working as hard or harder. They too follow the science,” he added, “and they understand the dangers of a deadly virus.”

There is no timetable for going to hybrid instruction. Witherspoon said the district will continually monitor the status of the pandemic.

However, the ETHS building will be ready for whenever students and staff do return. Campbell said high-touch areas will be sanitized, and hand sanitizer will be available. Classrooms will be set up for social distancing, there will be plexiglass dividers in certain areas, and air filtration systems will be upgraded. Signage will tell everyone to stay six feet apart.

“It will look like the ETHS we know, but it also won’t,” Campbell said. “It won’t feel like the ETHS we left,” he added. With all of the health and safety restrictions, the hybrid plan is “not about bringing kids together,” Campbell explained. “It’s about keeping kids apart.”

Both Campbell and Witherspoon thanked the students, parents, and staff for all of their efforts during remote education the first semester. “I can’t say it enough,” Campbell said. “I know it’s hard, but we hope you can feel the love, care, and compassion we’re trying to show.”

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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