ETHS announces plan for fall semester

Zachary Bahar, Executive Editor

On July 17, ETHS announced its fall reopening plan, which aims to facilitate daily student attendance, student social-emotional health and student and staff safety as the school year commences remotely, with the goal being a return to in-person learning when deemed safe.

“Our guiding principle has been to maintain a healthy and safe environment for all our students and staff, to maintain our commitment to equity, to provide meaningful and engaging academic experiences when we reopen for all students and to address the social and emotional wellbeing needs of our students and staff,” Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said during a July 13 District 202 school board meeting

 The long-term plan presented at the July 13 meeting is a hybrid model of in-person and online learning intended to create a “regular school-day;” however, by July 17, when the plan was released, the decision had been made to make school remote until further notice. 

“[While the plan presented at the July 13 board meeting included starting the hybrid model after Labor Day,] we determined that it is too early to commit to the hybrid model… so we updated the plan to indicate that the hybrid model will begin at a future date,” Witherspoon said. 

Remote learning will be facilitated through enhanced e-learning, a combination of both synchronous and asynchronous learning with the traditional A-F grading scale. Every Monday, students will be given 30 minutes of asynchronous work per course, alongside teacher office hours and student supports; on Tuesdays through Thursdays, students will engage in a series of 70-minute synchronous (i.e. Zoom or Google Meet) class sessions in a block schedule—periods 1-5 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, periods 6-9 on Wednesdays and Fridays. This block schedule is also the basis of the hybrid model.

In addition, every class will use Google Classroom as a learning management system.

To aid in the transition to enhanced e-learning, teachers have gone through an E-Learning Academy designed by the ETHS EdTech team which emphasizes six core units: classroom climate, planning, delivering content, discussion, assessment and feedback.

“Through the E-Learning Academy, teachers are learning best practices supported by research and guided by our e-learning experiences last spring. The Academy is designed to model how teachers can use Google Classroom, video and other tools to teach online while also giving them a glimpse into the student experience prior to the start of the school year,” Witherspoon said. 

Once conditions are considered safe enough to return, the school’s hybrid plan will allow students to have the option of returning to the school building for two days every other week—a total of four in-person days per month. As students return, hallways and stairways will be one-way, everyone in the building will be mandated to wear masks, students will be unable to use their lockers and changing will not be permitted for PE classes. On remote days, students will use enhanced e-learning.

In determining when to implement the hybrid plan, Witherspoon said the administration is considering a variety of factors including the “number of positive cases in our region going forward, the transmission rate, the percentage testing positive, hospitalizations and deaths.”

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, ETHS remains devoted to ensuring the education and safety of its students.

“There are those who somehow think our school could go back to the way it was before COVID-19 and bring everyone back as if there is no risk… [but] we do not take chances of spreading the disease in our community, infecting students and adults in our school, and having people carrying the virus home and infecting those in their households,” Witherspoon said. “I urge all Wildkits to treat COVID-19 as life threatening to them and to everyone in our community.”