A community group that pushed District 65 to set a date for in-person classes has launched a similar campaign to reopen Evanston Township High School.

The “Coalition to Reopen District 65 Schools” has renamed itself the “Coalition to Reopen Evanston Schools,” and in a news release today, listed ten questions they want Evanston Township High School administrators to answer about bringing children back to the building.

“We have a crisis,” said Coalition member and spokesperson Laurel O’Sullivan, a District 202 parent. “It’s time for us to reopen schools for all children.”

Both District 202 and Evanston/Skokie District 65 have been on remote learning since school began in the fall.

The group wants District 202 to name a local medical advisory board to review safe reopening criteria. District 65 established such a group following intense lobbying by the Coalition. After meeting with the advisory board, District 65 set an in-person reopening for Feb. 16.

While District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton has said that decision was made without political pressure, O’Sullivan told Evanston Now, “It’s clear the Coalition had an impact.” She said the group has 300 members, three of whom are running for District 65 Board of Education in April.

Some of the Coalition’s questions for District 202 deal with the impact of remote learning on student mental health, and whether ETHS is consulting with other districts that are reopening for in-person learning, such as Oak Park/River Forest, which the Coalition says “has demographics similar to ours.”

Some of the questions, however, are beyond what ETHS or any other district for that matter can control, such as “When will Evanston Township teachers and personnel begin to receive the vaccine?”

Another question, “What assurances can you give that Evanston Township High School will provide in-person learning in the 2021-22 academic year?” could only lead to an answer which might have to change based on COVID-19. The 2021-22 school year is seven months away.

As for a local medical advisory board, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon has stated publicly that he and district leaders are relying on information from state and federal agencies such as the CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health when considering in-person school. He has said ETHS hopes to have in-person learning some time this semester, but only when it is deemed to be safe.

O’Sullivan said all the issues have been raised with District 202 over the past few weeks, such as by sending emails, but said there has been no direct response. “We’re just deeply frustrated and concerned,” she added.

A district spokesperson told Evanston Now that they received the group’s release today. We have asked the district for comment.

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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