District 65 outlines early plans for 2021-22 school year

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Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Education Center, at 1500 McDaniel Ave. The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board discussed 2021-22 logistics at Monday’s meeting.

Olivia Alexander, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 plans to return to full in-person instruction in the upcoming academic year but maintains a commitment to improving remote learning programming as an ongoing option for families, LaTarsha Green, the district’s executive director of Black Student Success, said at a Monday board meeting. 

“We fully anticipate a full reopening with safety measures and virtual learning options,” Green said. “So while those specifics aren’t outlined here, I do want us to vision and imagine that that is the goal we are working for.” 

D65 administrators presented early return to school plans for the 2021-22 school year during the  meeting. 

Green shared other district priorities for the upcoming year at the meeting, including the development of a more comprehensive mental health plan and a guidance counselor support system for middle school students. The district also plans to support two-way communication between students, faculty, staff and community members to provide monthly updates and feedback on the school year. 

Stacy Beardsley, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, shared actions during the presentation that the district will take to accelerate learning during the upcoming year to make up for setbacks in student learning caused by the pandemic. She acknowledged the progress students have made while learning remotely.

“It’s important to hold that in the midst of challenges, we’ve all grown tremendously,” Beardsley said. “Our educators and students have found strategies that are effective and should continue in our learning spaces on site, or virtually.” 

Beardsley said the district will continue to elevate the importance of social-emotional learning and strong, safe learning environments. Additionally, she said the use of technology tools by students and educators has improved learning in ways that have increased student independence and agency. She said the district must carry the practices with them into the future. 

Some board members expressed concerns over the return to school plan’s lack of development thus far. 

Board member Joey Hailpern said the district needs to incorporate the possibility of additional waves of the COVID-19 pandemic into its academic plans, as there might be other times the district has to pivot into remote or hybrid learning.

Board Vice President Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan said the pandemic likely compromised her “bandwidth for uncertainty,” but she is still dissatisfied with where the district is in terms of detailed plans for the future. 

“I want to ask for our next discussion to have some specificity in some areas,” Lindsay-Ryan said. “I definitely want to understand more about our direct plans for emerging bilinguals and what reentry will look like for the future.” 

District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton said the administration’s goal is to finalize a complete plan for the potential return to school next year before next month’s meeting. Horton said the meeting’s purpose was for board members to offer feedback and give suggestions on what to consider going forward. 

At the Monday meeting, board member Soo La Kim expressed gratitude for the team’s openness about the planning process as it unfolds. 

“I think one of the advantages of this transparency and sharing the compression planning details now is that we get to see all the logistical considerations that have to go into such a planning,” Kim said. “The questions we need answers to, and I think that’s often what’s hidden in administrative work.” 

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