After nearly a year of sitting in front of computer screens at home, public school students in Evanston are finally back in the classroom. At least some of them are.

The much-delayed hybrid school plan at Evanston/Skokie District 65 got under way this morning. About half of the district’s 7,300 students will attend in person, the other half will stay on remote learning. Parents and guardians had a choice of either option for their kindergarten through eighth graders.

Rita Beirne dropped off her 7th grade daughter, Grace Midyan, at Nichols Middle School. Beirne said she’s “very happy” that in-person school is back. Grace had a “great experience” with remote learning, Beirne said, although she knows that’s not the case for everyone.

Beirne also said the social-emotional aspect of going to school, the chance for Grace to see her friends and interact personally with teachers, is “most important. It’s not normal for kids to be stuck at home all day,” she added.

Beirne said she is “not at all worried” about her daughter coming down with COVID-19 at school. Nichols school, for example, has a 22-page handbook of coronavirus health and safety policies.

Illinois schools switched to remote learning last March, at the start of the pandemic. With the coronavirus not letting up, District 65 kept moving the startup date for hybrid school, first to September, then November, then January, and finally, ’til now.

District officials felt it was safe to reopen this week. But the Tuesday target had to be changed to today, because of two snow days.

Evanston Township High School is remaining on remote learning for now, for all students. The district did start a variety of on-campus “in-person experiences,” such as arts, sports, and academic enrichment programs yesterday. Those activities are all voluntary.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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