Evanston Township High School will require unvaccinated students and staff members to be tested for COVID-19.

In an announcement on the school’s website, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon and ETHS principal Marcus Campbell say “ETHS students and staff can expect that COVID tests will be part of our response” to the ongoing presence of the disease and its highly contagious delta variant.

The COVID tests will be required at least once a week, and “unvaccinated students and staff will not be able to opt out, including individuals with medical or religious exemptions for receiving the vaccine.”

More specifics about testing procedures will be released in the next few days. Until then, the school leaders say, free tests are widely available at many locations in the area.

ETHS will also have a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the school. The first dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be given on Sept. 14, the second on Oct. 5.

So far, there have only been a handful of COVID cases among ETHS students (nine) and staff (five) since school began in mid-August, according to the district’s COVID dashboard.

That dashboard also indicates that the student vaccination rate remains at 76%, while the staff rate jumped from 69% last week to 81% this week.

Evanston is among the most highly vaccinated communities in Illinois.

Witherspoon and Campbell say “Getting the vaccine is the way to get back to our daily lives and the things we enjoy doing.”

The officials say that the district cannot mandate those vaccines for students. However, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is requiring all school employees to get the shots or else face regular testing.

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