Evanston/Skokie District 65 will not offer the previously announced remote school option this fall, because an Illinois State Board of Education resolution blocks it from happening.
The district planned a virtual learning pathway for the small number of students who do not want to return for D65’s fully in-person school in the upcoming academic year. But that plan was made before the State Board stepped in to override programs such as that anywhere in Illinois.
Today, in a message to the community, Superintendent Devon Horton said “After much discussion, we have determined that our virtual learning pathway, as intended, is not allowable under the ISBE resolution which clearly states that, ‘Beginning with the 2021-22 school year, all schools must resume fully in-person learning for all student attendance days.'”
ISBE is only allowing virtual learning under a very limited and difficult-to-meet exception: students who are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and who are under quarantine.
Horton said the district will provide remote instruction for vaccine-ineligible students who are required to quarantine due to catching or being exposed to the virus. “This option will remain available to them during the length of the quarantine period,” he adds.
Horton said he is aware that some District 65 families had already signed up for the virtual option for a variety of reasons, and knows that the ISBE resolution will have an impact.
He said district staff will reach out to those families to explain the ISBE decision, and “to better understand their situation and how we can best support their child with learning in the coming school year.”
He also said “We care very deeply about providing a safe, supportive learning environment for all children.”
Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is approved only for children ages 12 and above, which rules out a high percentage of District 65’s 7,300 students. The district is pre-Kindergarten through Grade 8.
The 3,600 students in District 202, Evanston Township High School, are age-eligible for COVID shots.
ETHS had announced there will not be a remote option this fall. On the district’s website, a memo asks parents/guardians to fill out an exemption form “if your child has a medical reason that may prevent them from fully returning in the fall so that we may support the best educational next steps.”
Both District 202 and District 65 went to a fully remote model in March, 2020 when the COVID pandemic struck.
District 65 switched to a part remote, part-in-person hybrid system this past February. District 202 did so in April.