New ETHS Day School founded to better support students

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New ETHS Day School founded to better support students

Photo by Zachary Bahar

Photo by Zachary Bahar

Photo by Zachary Bahar

Photo by Zachary Bahar

Rebecca Lustig, Community Outreach Editor

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A new ETHS Day School was founded to better support students with individual needs. The Day School, located about three blocks from the school on 1123 Hartrey Ave. will host approximately 20-25 students during the 2019-2020 school year.

“The Day School embodies the mission of District 202: ‘Embracing its diversity, ETHS is committed to educating all of its students to their maximum potential.’” The Day School’s mission statement said it is “Designed to improve students’ academic, social-emotional, and post-secondary outcomes, the School responds to unique learning needs with specialized and direct instruction, and individualized services and interventions. The Day School provides a structured and supportive educational environment for Evanston students, in the Evanston community!”

Student acceptance at the Day School was made on an individual basis through IEP (Individualized Education Program) team decisions. IEPs are based upon the Individual With Disabilities Education Act, given to students with specific learning, emotional or physical disabilities.

“We have some students who need more environmental support. A school with thirty kids versus 3800 kids feels very different. We have some students who we consider the Day School just a transition in preparation for reintegration into the high school. It’s a broad net, which is why each decision for student enrollment is made individually,” District 202 Director of Special Education Lanée Walls said.

The Day School officially opened June 11 for a six-week summer session. The school was created in response due to the number of Evanston students who needed to attend other schools/programs outside of District 202 to receive the support they required. As of the 2018-2019 school year, there were 453 District 202 students who had IEPs — 75 of those students did not attend ETHS. Some of those students will now attend the Day School. 

“We’re talking about students who have been taking cabs and busses to school 45 minutes to an hour one way for many years. These are students who now get to walk with their friends or ride their bikes or ride with their siblings because they’re in this same community in a space where they believe that they can make some progress,” explained Walls.

There are various resources providing extra support at the Day School: Students will have homeroom time once they arrive to orient themselves within the space. A full-time psychologist, along with two School Psychologist practicum students, three School Psychologist intern rotations and three paraprofessionals work at the Day School.

“The smaller space, the environment is certainly one that’s more organic at the Day School… Also, our counseling supports [allows for] the ability and the opportunity to more immediately respond to student needs. To be able to have more integrated support within the classrooms is another support that we have,” ETHS Day School Coordinator Jamie Reinhardt explained.

Students at the Day School will run on a similar schedule to the ETHS main campus with nine 42-minute periods. The schedule varies slightly to allow for transport ease between the Day School and the main campus for dually enrolled students. Classes include core subjects of English, math, social science, science; physical education with a greater focus on healthy decision making and overall emotional wellbeing; and electives such as art, wellness and job skills/job experience.

“We want the focus to be on supporting students on earning their credits towards graduation. Similarly, the courses that we offer will align with that, said Reinhardt. “We’ll have 1 through 4 English available, the requirements for social science, for math. So we’ll make sure that all of the core graduation requirements are available at the campus as well as the electives.”

The Day School was conceptualized over 10 years ago, but more active measures began taking place in 2017. There were meetings with the City of Evanston, community organizations, the school board and the 2nd Ward. Beginning in April 2019, the Day School began individual family communications and tours.

“The process was long, it took several years, but it was a vision of the district for over a decade to do something along these lines. But it started with finding suitable space that was in good proximity to the high school,” said Walls.

The building itself – adorned with ETHS decorations – is centralized around a loop. Amongst other spaces, it contains four classrooms, multiple multipurpose rooms, offices and gender-neutral restrooms with showers. It has the potential to hold up to 40 students, but the student to staff ratio will never exceed 5-to-1.

“Our parents who knew that they wanted their students in Evanston were very excited even before we started construction. I had parents who had students who were even placed out of state calling, ‘You know, we heard about this school. We want to know if our students would be a good candidate.’ We had a small, a very small number of community members who had some concerns. I will say since we’ve opened, those concerns have pretty much dissipated,” said Walls. “For me the Day School already is. The fact that we were able to get something so important over the line for our students is a huge success. It really is.”