D65 board talks plans for upcoming school year


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Board president Suni Katha. At Monday’s board meeting, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board members discussed various scenarios for education in the fall.

Eva Herscowitz, Assistant City Editor

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 is considering three options for the upcoming school year, co-interim superintendents Phil Ehrhardt and Heidi Wennstrom said at the board’s remote Monday meeting.

The three options are either to continue with remote learning in the fall, return to in-person instruction or develop a combination of both virtual and in-person education. Ehrhardt said he expects any form of in-person instruction to operate under a “new normal” in which students and staff would follow social distancing protocols and possibly wear face masks.

He said guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local health departments, are influencing district decisions.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of our students and our staff, but also a very important part of it is to continue learning,” Ehrhardt said.

Wennstrom said district officials are still in the “initial stages” of planning, but they will continue to communicate with families as proposals develop. She added that the status of district summer programs — both academic offerings and unaffiliated programs held in district facilities — is still uncertain. Officials are determining how these programs will operate, and Ehrhardt said the district will make an announcement regarding their status in the coming weeks.

Despite statewide school closures and Illinois’ stay-at-home order, Wennstrom said the district is prioritizing summer learning.

“Our commitment is to ensure that children can continue to learn during the summer,” she said. “It’s not a matter of if — it’s a matter of how.”

Board members will approve a draft for the 2021-2022 school calendar at the board’s June meeting, board president Suni Kartha said. The board is developing a survey to solicit feedback from families and staff members on holidays, the timing of spring break and school start and end dates, and it plans to review the survey results in June.

Additionally, new board member Soo La Kim was sworn in at the meeting, filling a board vacancy left by Candance Chow. Chow stepped down on Feb. 10 after a six-year term, and Kim was announced as her replacement on April 20.

The board intended to appoint a new member on March 23, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s decision to close Illinois schools in mid-March until the year’s end delayed the process.

Kim is the Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs at Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies. The mother of a Nichols Middle School sixth-grader and a Lincoln Elementary School second-grader, Kim was one of 23 applicants for the position. Kim is on the planning committee of the Next Steps education and advocacy series on race, equity and education.

“I’m humbled and excited to serve with you all and glad to be part of a community that cares so much about public education,” she said at the meeting. “I look forward to working with you all and working with all the teachers, staff and families in District 65.”

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