ETHS announces in-person experiences

Zachary Bahar, Executive Editor

Updated Feb. 10:

After almost 11 months away from ETHS, students will be allowed to reenter the building in the coming weeks with the rollout of in-person experiences and activities

Announced in an email to students, parents and staff on Jan. 28, ETHS’ administration reaffirmed their goal to “provid[e] a variety of activities that connect students with peers and staff in a safe, virtual environment,” and expanded those opportunities to “include in-person experiences at ETHS… in a safe manner.”

While activities, such as marching band and athletics, have been permitted to practice on the ETHS campus since the summer, this marks the first large-scale effort to reintroduce students to the building itself as most previous activities took place outdoors.

In-person experiences will include extracurricular activities (including the continuation of athletics), enrichment opportunities, mindfulness practice, Monday Fun Day activities in the HUB, introduction options for new students—including the ability to walk your schedule with a Student Ambassador—and capstone experiences for seniors. Students will sign up for all experiences using the In-Person Experiences website.

These experiences will take place in accordance with the existing Enhanced E-learning schedule—on asynchronous Mondays, after school Tuesday through Friday and on Saturdays—and will not disrupt or change the e-learning model that has been employed throughout the year.

The school will also be offering a “Safe Center for Online Learning (SCOL) for students who wish to engage in enhanced e-learning on campus at ETHS.” SCOL will be held in the East Cafeteria every Tuesday through Friday until the end of the school year (May 28), and students are able to register and participate on a per-week basis using this Google form. Any student wanting to participate is welcome to and is required to arrive between 8–8:45 a.m. (7 a.m. if a student is taking an Early Bird class). Breakfast, lunch and a snack will be provided to any student who requests it while registering.

All in-person experiences will be held in accordance with the Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control—social distancing and mask-wearing will be mandated at all times—and they cannot be required for class credit. They are entirely optional. As such, the main purpose of the initiative is not to enhance in-class learning but to address the social-emotional needs of students

“What our feedback has been from teachers, from students, from the Student Union is not necessarily about the academic component of what we’re doing. That has been, for the most part, pretty successful…. It’s that social-emotional component [that’s been an issue]. How can we address that? There are only so many things you can do with a Zoom meeting or a Google Meets meeting,” Teacher’s Council President and astronomy teacher GionMatthias Schelbert said. “The question is, how can we meet that deficit of that social-emotional component because we know [students] want to?”

While many of these opportunities are being offered by the school as a whole, teachers will be able to host optional, non-graded, course-specific opportunities for their students.

“I teach astronomy and astrophysics. We have an awesome planetarium, and so by the school allowing me to host X amount of people, this provides us that opportunity. We can continue doing what we’re doing, which we’ve been successful at, and say ‘Hey, on Monday, I’m going to run five hourly sessions in the planetarium.’ Cool, now we have slots open for students to sign up and experience the planetarium. There are no grades, there’s no assessment on it, it’s just ‘Hey, let’s connect. Everyone will be wearing masks and be socially distanced,’” Schelbert said.

“The one thing I’m very proud of is that, at ETHS, our teachers know how to think outside the box, they know how to be creative; here is a challenge for us to think creatively.”

The initial announcement came one day after the parent group Reopen Evanston Schools, issued a list of demands for the District 202 administration. Within the announcement, the group requested “that ETHS and D202 officials lay out the return to in-person learning plan and schedule for all affected families no later than Feb. 16,” the same day District 65 plans to reopen for in-person classes.

This post was updated on Feb. 10 with additional information regarding the in-person experiences being offered.