D202 Board discusses COVID-19 mitigation protocols, case numbers

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Daily file photo by Onyekaorise Chigbogwu

Evanston Township High School. During Thursday’s joint committee meeting, District 65 and District 202 leaders prepared for a discussion about updating their joint literacy goal for students in the community.

Aviva Bechky, Assistant City Editor

The District 202 Board of Education heard updates Tuesday from Evanston Township High School officials about COVID-19 mitigation measures and positive case numbers after the first week back from Winter Break.

Associate Principal for Student Services Taya Kinzie said 311 student positive cases were reported between Jan. 7 and 14. One-hundred-eighty-three of those cases occurred over Winter Break but were reported last week.

Nearly all positive tests between Jan. 7 and 14 were identified through ETHS’s mandatory SHIELD testing program on Jan. 11 and 12, Kinzie said, when students were tested in school during physical education and wellness periods. Students reported the remaining six cases to the school.

Guardians were able to opt their children out of the testing program prior to Dec. 23, 2021. 

Of 2,569 students tested through SHIELD, 122 tested positive — a 4.9% positivity rate, or 3.3% of the student body. 76 students opted not to get tested, and others were absent. 3,728 students attend ETHS as of Sept. 30, 2021 according to ETHS’s school profile

Of the 41 staff cases reported between Jan. 7 and 14, 29 tested positive over Winter Break or the week before. 12 tested positive during the week of Jan. 7 and were still quarantined as of Jan. 14, when the district’s COVID-19 positive case dashboard was updated.

The presenters also addressed limitations on “adaptive pauses.” ETHS entered one such pause before Winter Break, moving to virtual school when COVID-19 cases spiked.

“According to the state guidelines, an adaptive pause for remote learning is not an option in response to staff shortages in schools,” Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Pete Bavis said. “A school district may enter into an adaptive pause only in consultation with the local health department.”

Illinois rules restrict ETHS’s agency more than they did last year, he said.

The district can choose to take an e-learning day, but it can only take five before ETHS must make up school days at the end of the year. These days are typically used for snow days, Bavis said.

“I’ve seen a couple of student groups talking about how they don’t really like how we’ve come back in-person, how they wish we took an adaptive pause after winter break,” said Barbara Tomaradze, the student representative to the Board of Education. “I think that the information that was presented is super important in saying how ETHS cannot necessarily decide those things.”

Assistant Superintendent/Principal Marcus Campbell said ETHS added COVID-19 mitigation strategies this semester. These include testing for students and staff, increasing locations for eating lunch and improving contact tracing.

The board also heard about extracurricular programming in sports, community service, student activities and art. Presenters spoke about wide disparities in student extracurricular involvement in the 2020-21 academic year. 

Seventy-two percent of white students, 66% of Asian students and 65% of multiracial students participated in sports, fine arts or student activities. In contrast, only 41% of Black students and 38% of Latinx students did.

In addition, 2.46 times more non-low-income students participated in those extracurriculars compared to low-income students. A bit over three times as many students without Individualized Education Programs participated compared to those with IEPs. 

Athletic Director Chris Livatino discussed a program to work with youth sports organizations to promote engagement among students of color. Board members praised those efforts and discussed the importance of improving the disparities.

“My vision, my hope, is that we put just as much emphasis on this engagement and what this does to the wellness of a child as we do creating a literacy goal,” said board Vice President Monique Parsons. “There are some community members that absolutely know that engagement can save a life.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @avivabechky

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