Eric Witherspoon and Marcus Campbell.

The “new normal” of COVID-19 is bringing an end to end-of-semester final exams at Evanston Township High School.

Superintendent Eric Witherspoon and Principal Marcus Campbell explained the policy change on their “E-Town Live” video webcast this morning.

ETHS began this year entirely on remote learning, and administrators expect that to continue at least for this semester, if not longer, due to the coronavirus. “There are way more cases now than there were on March 13,” when Illinois schools all switched to e-learning, Witherspoon said.

The superintendent explained that due to COVID-19, “We aren’t able to administer exams as we could in the past.” So, he said, “we are using this time to reassess how assessments are done.”

Witherspoon said that even before the pandemic, some teachers had started using other end-of-semester evaluations, such as various projects, portfolios, or other “multi-dimensional” types of assessment.

Even if ETHS returns to in-person school in the second semester, there will still not be end-of-semester finals in the spring. And it seems likely there won’t be any beyond that as well. Witherspoon said by not taking up the time students usually “cram” for finals, teachers will be able to work on what “deep learning” is all about.

The administrators also announced another part of the COVID “new normal.”

Free meals for all students in District 202 and District 65 will be available starting next week, not just for those who are on free and reduced price meal plans, thanks to a policy waiver by the federal government.

Five days worth of breakfast and lunch can be picked up curbside at ETHS, at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, and at five District 65 school buildings. Families will have to fill out a sign-up form first, available on the District 202 and District 65 websites.

The meals will normally be picked up Mondays, however, because of the Labor Day holiday, next week the pickup date is Tuesday. The free meal distribution runs through the end of December.

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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