District 65 administrators present return to school plans, discuss technology and COVID-19 mitigation measures


Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Education Center, at 1500 McDaniel Ave. During Monday’s board meeting, administrators presented a more comprehensive plan for return to school.

Olivia Alexander, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

While Evanston/Skokie School District 65 families students can expect a full in-person reopening in the fall, limited remote learning options will remain for families. Superintendent Devon Horton said the district will also continue to implement technology use and independent learning in preparation for a pivot back to full remote learning at moment’s notice. 

“While we are hopeful and excited about where everything is headed, we have to also be aware and alert and prepared for would we have to return (to online learning),” Horton said.

D65 administrators presented return to school plans for the 2021-22 school year and discussed the use of technology and COVID-19 mitigation measures at Monday’s meeting. 

The district will provide devices for all students, provide new educator computers and make hotspots available for families in need of internet access.

District 65 Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools Terrance Little said students will use their devices “each and every day.” 

“We’ve come up with some good technology practices and things of that nature, so we would definitely be incorporating those practices in our new approach,” Little said.

 The district anticipates a full reopening in the fall, but will maintain 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 an April 27 board meeting. 

Melissa Messinger, the District 65 director of communications, said the district will increase outreach efforts throughout the district to ensure families know their options for in-person and remote learning. She estimated that over 40 percent of children and families may not have paid attention to reopening communications this year because they were not planning on coming back to school buildings. 

With regards to in person learning protocols, the district will implement a “grab and go” breakfast system in which students eat in their classrooms. Students will eat lunch across a number of spaces to incorporate five feet of distancing. Visitors will not be allowed unless registered as official volunteers. 

Horton said the district cannot legally require vaccinations for teachers. Mitigation measures for the fall will continue to include mask wearing, hand washing and completion of the daily health certification. The district will continue to update its COVID-19 dashboard, but vaccinated students and staff will not be required to quarantine. 

Board member Soo La Kim asked how leaders anticipated planning with changing guidance and vaccinations becoming available to children. Horton said the district will continue to follow CDC guidelines.

Upon return to school, each school in the district’s leadership team will develop a four-week transition plan to establish school norms, values and student expectations to create a sense of community within schools. 

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Stacy Beardsley emphasized the importance of these transitions and the need for students to have affirming learning environments as they make their transition back to full in-person instruction. 

“We need to ensure that we have a safe learning environment to welcome our children,” Beardsley said.

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