Students waiting to enter ETHS in April 2021.

While the big school district south of Howard Street remains closed as teachers and the administration battle over COVID protocols, Evanston Township High School is ready to reopen Monday as scheduled.

But ETHS is reminding students and staff that extra steps are being taken to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, particularly the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

In a website memo to the community, ETHS says COVID testing will be expanded this semester, with all students (except those whose families opt out) being tested weekly, regardless of vaccination status. Those tests start on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Students and staff are also reminded that masks are required at all times, and may only be removed briefly to eat or drink.

The school community is asked to “hold each other in loving accountability” by properly wearing a mask over their nose and mouth while inside ETHS.

Students will be reminded of proper mask protocol if they are not wearing one correctly or at all, and “additional intervention will be provided as needed” to make sure masks are on the right way.

In addition to a COVID Dashboard that shows the number of new cases and individuals in quarantine, this semester ETHS will also have a Lunch Location Dashboard, “updated daily with available spaces to eat lunch.”

Weather permitting, students are encouraged to eat outdoors, although that seems more practical towards the end of the school year than in January or February.

As for the COVID Dashboard, it shows 20 new student cases and 29 new staff cases as of Jan 7. That’s significantly fewer student cases than before the two-week winter break, so it’s unclear if the numbers are down because there has been less COVID testing over vacation, or if there truly is a downward trend.

The last five days of school before winter break were an “adaptive pause,” where classes were held remotely rather than in person.

ETHS says that students and staff may need additional support as they return to the building, so connections to the necessary resources will be provided.

The district also says it will be “sharing information about emergency response protocols, violence prevention practices and crisis planning” in separate communications.

Evanston/Skokie District 65, the elementary and middle school feeder system for ETHS, has pushed the start of in-person school back one day, to Tuesday. Monday will be a remote learning day.

District 65 is also offering COVID testing for students and staff on Monday, at the Joseph E. Hill administration building, Chute Middle School and, for Park School students, at the school.

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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