The COVID-19 positive rate in suburban Cook County will have to drop significantly for Evanston/Skokie School District 65 to return to in-person classes.

Superintendent Devon Horton told a virtual meeting of the Board of Education that the rate in Illinois Region 10 has been trending at 6.9 per cent in the past seven to eight days. Horton said “our goal is to have a positivity rate for the region of three or less.”

There is still about a month to get the positive rate down enough to open in person. School began remotely for the entire District last Thursday. In-person classes are supposed to begin Sept. 29 for those families who choose it for their children, health conditions permitting.

However, COVID-19 indicators in Cook County have been getting worse lately, not better. Cook is one of 30 counties given a “warning” label by the state. That label can be applied for a variety of COVID-related problems.

One COVID bright spot in District 65 is the city of Evanston, which has consistently had a low positive rate. The most recent rolling seven day average was only 1.3%. However, there is concern that Evanston may see more cases when students return to Northwestern, even though the number coming back will be lower than normal.

Both the superintendent and Board President Anya Tanyavutti expressed the District’s solidarity with the Black community following the Kenosha shooting of former Evanston resident Jacob Blake. Tanyavutti also criticized President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to Kenosha, saying Mr. Trump is “an immoral national leader” who is not going to Kenosha “to bring justice and peace but to provoke and incite further violence and discord.”

The Board also received their first look at a 55 page, two-year plan to improve academic performance, social-emotional learning and financial accountability in the district. Among the issues in the plan are closing the achievement gap between white and minority students, reducing bullying and shifting attendance boundaries for schools to more efficiently utilize facilities.

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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