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ETHS leaders hope for hybrid learning before school year ends

But the superintendent says shifting Evanston's high school from remote learning in the midst of a surge in COVID-19 cases would be irresponsible.

Marcus Campbell and Eric Witherspoon.

School District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said this morning that he is “so hopeful” Evanston Township High School can have a hybrid learning system “before the school year wraps up.”

However, Witherspoon and ETHS Principal Marcus Campbell said Evanston Township High School will continue with remote education when the second semester starts on Jan. 4, while continually monitoring the coronavirus pandemic.

The school leaders spoke on the District’s “ETown Live” YouTube program, explaining that as much as students, staff, and parents want some sort of return to in-person school, the coronavirus makes that impossible now.

“It would be irresponsible to make a transition to hybrid in the midst of a dangerous surge” of COVID-19, Campbell said.

ETHS classes have all been taught remotely since the school year began in August. If a hybrid system is implemented, students would alternate between in-person days and remote learning days.

While some other districts have gone to a hybrid model, only to have to switch to remote learning due to COVID outbreaks, Campbell said “flipping back and forth between remote and hybrid does not offer continuity” of learning which students need.

Witherspoon said ETHS will use an Evanston-specific focus in deciding whether to go hybrid. Unlike some other communities, he said Evanston has a diverse population, including some who are more susceptible to COVID-19, such as people of color, senior citizens, and multigenerational families living in the same households.

“We will take that into account to do the best for the Evanston community,” Witherspoon said.

The superintendent also gave a strong statement supporting teachers and staff. In some districts, teachers have been criticized by parents who say the teachers actually do not want to come to school, and would rather be teaching remotely from home.

Witherspoon said that idea is “farther from the truth than anything I’ve heard.”

He said remote learning is “10 times harder and takes 1,000 times longer” for teachers “because we are reinventing things.”

He called the teachers “heroes doing great things in difficult times.”

There is no timetable for if and when ETHS goes to a hybrid model. Witherspoon said remote learning should continue at least for “some significant part of the third quarter.”

Both school leaders urged the community to remain vigilant during the COVID-19 surge, and to take all necessary health and safety measures. “The headlines this week have been shocking,” Witherspoon said.

And Campbell said as the COVID news got worse and worse, “I immediately called my mother and told her how much I loved her, and wanted her to stay inside.”

keywords » COVID-19

Jeff Hirsh

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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