At Monday night’s meeting of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board, administrators outlined what is intended for the 2021-22 school year.

Among the goals, five full days a week of in-person instruction for all students, except for those who may still prefer a remote school option due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Currently, 57% of District 65’s 7,300 students attend in-person. The remainder are on e-learning.

With far more students and staff expected at school buildings in the fall, District Financial Officer Raphael Obafemi said “there will be outdoor spaces to accommodate students.”

Specifics on how this will work are yet to come. Obafemi said tents have been ordered, but with so many restaurants using them for outdoor dining, there has been a tent shortage. “They just arrived from China,” for District 65, he explained.

Obafemi also said if outdoor space is used, steps will have to be taken to get technology such as routers to the outside location.

Of course, when school starts in August, it can be incredibly hot in Evanston. And Chicago winters are brutally cold, so it’s uncertain exactly how the outdoor or the in-tents experience will work.

However, because of anticipated social distancing requirements in classrooms, if the vast majority of students do return, some sort of alternative solution will be likely be needed.

Details are expected to be presented at next month’s school board meeting.

There is one major “what if” to all of this, namely, “what if” there is another major surge of COVID-19 in the fall?

Board member Joey Hailpern said, “The worry that I have as a parent is planning for the unknown.”

Superintendent Devon Horton said in building the 2021-22 plan, “part of that is if we have to revert back to full remote.”

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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