With the first day of school less than a week-and-a-half away, Evanston Township High School is not just going to focus on the 3 R’s in 2021-22.

The school will also emphasize L-E-and-S … “love, empathy and support.”

In a back-to-school guide released on the ETHS web site, District 202 leaders say the upcoming school year will zero in on student wellbeing, as full in-person instruction, with masks, will resume.

In a letter to the community, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon says “with the reopening comes a fresh start: a chance to reconnect, and our opportunity to rehumanize school by showing our respect, care and love for one another after a long absence.”

ETHS was on remote learning due to COVID-19 from mid-March, 2020 through mid-April, 2021 … and only had in-person school for some of the students as part of a hybrid system.

School officials recognize that the past 18 months created anxiety, confusion, and fear from the combination of COVID-19, economic dislocation, and race-relations reckoning after the murder of George Floyd.

With equity at the core, ETHS says it will focus on social-emotional learning in a variety of ways, including “proactive mental health and wellness programming,” and “nuanced thinking and action that supports students along the lines of identity and experiences.”

Principal Marcus Campbell says ETHS will work on rehumanizing school, to build connections and relationships.

All of this will take place as COVID-19 is surging once again, although the positivity rate in Evanston remains low compared to most other communities.

Besides requiring masks for all students and staff, vaccinated or not, when inside ETHS. The mask requirement includes indoor activities and sports.

Other health and safety mitigations will be in place, such as social distancing and daily cleaning and disinfection of the building.

In addition to masks and the focus on rehumanizing school, students will also see upgrades to the academic study center, the auditorium, the literacy lab, and the locker rooms.

This will also be the first full year of block scheduling, where classes are longer.

Without a doubt, ETHS will be experiencing a new normal, which could change again as the year continues.

Still, as Superintendent Witherspoon put it, “On Monday, August 16, our beloved high school will be fully reopened for the 2021-22 school year.”

To view the back to school guide, go to www.eths.k12.il.us/backtoschool.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.