Evanston Township High School plans for hybrid learning in the fall


Illustration by Catherine Buchaneic

Members of the Evanston City-School Liaison Committee discussed how to alleviate internet connectivity problems for families around both Evanston school districts.

Sneha Dey, Summer Managing Editor

Evanston Township High School/District 202 plans to offer a hybrid of in-person and remote learning in the fall. Families will be able to opt into entirely remote instruction, D202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said at a board meeting Monday.

Classes will begin as scheduled in August, but in-person instruction will not begin until Labor Day. Witherspoon said administrators would use the time to familiarize the staff with social distancing protocols.

Students who participate in the hybrid model will be divided into groups A, B, C and D. Groups will attend in-person classes on a fixed rotational schedule. While designated groups are in the classrooms, all other students will attend the class synchronously online.

E-learning will look substantially different from the spring. In the fall, ETHS students can expect high academic expectations, a return to grading on an ABC scale and attendance records. Assessments will be open book and will ask more sophisticated questions, said Pete Bavis, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at ETHS.

Bavis said the district learned what worked — and what failed — with remote learning in the spring. Bavis said students needed regular contact with teachers and a routine or schedule. Neither asynchronous learning nor working across various online platforms was successful.

Witherspoon said ETHS could not conduct a “real school” last spring while following the guidelines from the Illinois State Board of Education and Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

“We were not satisfied with e-learning in the spring. My main dissatisfaction were all the rules the governor and the state board threw at us.” Witherspoon said. “This plan is real school. You’re going to hear about real school.”

In order to minimize contact, ETHS will be a closed campus, according to ETHS Assistant Superintendent/Principal Marcus Campbell. For “free periods” and lunch, students will be assigned to spaces. Multiple rooms will be used for lunch, as opposed to the cafeteria. The school will also open more exits and entrances to prevent crowding.

Students and staff will be asked to self-certify before entering the building, and regularly check for COVID-19 symptoms. The school will have a designated area for students to isolate if they are exhibiting symptoms. Students who do not wear a mask will not be allowed to participate in in-person instruction.

If there is a positive case at school, Witherspoon said the district would rely on public health officials for guidance and likely utilize contact tracing. If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, which Witherspoon said was “not incomprehensible,” the district would go immediately to full-time remote learning.

About 950 students, about one-fourth of the student body, will be in the building on any given day. Campbell said the planning team students the maximum amount possible to maintain social distancing.

He also said the planning team also explored the option of teachers rotating between classrooms but did not feel such a procedure was feasible, given the nature of the school.

“We are doing the best we can to keep the number of bodies down where there is some semblance of school,” said Campbell. “If it looks like ETHS is slow… that means we’re doing it correctly.”

Campbell also said teachers do not have an option to teach remotely, but exceptions will be made on a case by case basis. Teachers and staff will be surveyed on the plan this week.

The official plan to return to school will be released Friday, after which students and parents will be surveyed. On July 22, the planning team will also hold a live town hall.

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