D202 Board members during Monday's meeting.

When Evanston Township High School opens for the 2021-22 school year, Principal Marcus Campbell says students and staff will be “returning to a different ETHS.”

Campell told the District 202 Board of Education Monday night that “we will not return to ‘business as usual.’”

This Wednesday, ETHS begins its hybrid learning model, with about half of the school’s 3,600 students returning to the classroom for the first time since COVID-19 caused a shift to remote learning in March, 2020. The rest of the students will, based on family choice, remain on remote learning the rest of this school year.

District 202 superintendent Eric Witherspoon said ETHS will use the hybrid system to “transition from fully remote” the past year, to “fully in person” learning this fall.

There will be a “new ETHS and a new normal” when the next school year begins, Witherspoon said.

Among the changes for 2021-22 include no more end of semester exams. School officials said this will give teachers more time for instruction. Teachers will have the option of giving “multi-unit assessments” in class at the conclusion of terms, Campbell explained, but there will not be a mandatory week of end of semester finals.

ETHS will continue block scheduling, longer classes that were implemented as part of this school year’s e-learning. Blocks, where classes are 85 minutes long instead of about half of that time, have been a goal for years.

“ETHS has been talking about block scheduling for 20 years,” Campbell said.

Students will start the next school year with a clean slate. Tardies and detentions will be wiped out. There will also be a more “progressive” discipline system, focusing on “restorative” practice that helps the student rather than simply punishes.

There will also be a new special education delivery model, with case managers and teachers being able to spend more time on their own particular areas of expertise.

Campbell said this is a difficult time to deal with so many changes, especially as the community and the nation are still coping with the coronavirus pandemic. “But if not now, when?” he asked.

Administrators emphasized the goal is for a fully in-person school in 2021-22. That’s the plan. But board member Gretchen Livingson said “nobody in life can guarantee anything day to day.”

Barring any drastic change in COVID, “we’re going to be there” in person, she said.

But we are currently seeing a drastic change not far from here, in Michigan.

“I’m not going to promise anything that I can’t deliver,” Livingston added.

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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