ETHS reimagines school as students return to building

August 16, 2021: whether it’s with apprehension or excitement, the ETHS community has long awaited the return of full-time, in-person school. While many have anticipated a return to normalcy, CDC guidelines and new changes at ETHS have already shown that the 2021-2022 school year will be like none before.

In March of 2021, ETHS announced some major changes to the way the school would function in the coming future. A shift in the tardy policy, implementation of block scheduling and an elimination of finals are the three biggest changes. 

Even aside from these changes, ETHS will still look very different than students are used to. Initially, on July 15, ETHS announced that fully vaccinated students and staff would not be required to wear masks in the school. But as the Delta variant continued to rise over the summer, the CDC issued new guidelines that caused ETHS to revise their previous July 15 statement. As of July 28, all students and staff are required to wear masks inside the building, regardless of vaccination status.

“The governor recently mandated mask [wearing] in all schools, I suspect because he’s dealing with all [age] groups. But I am comfortable with his decision,” Superintendent Eric Withersoon said. “All the research continues to show that reducing the risk [by wearing masks] is huge.”

ETHS still retains some of the guidelines issued in their July 15 statement—students still required to submit proof of vaccination for contact tracing purposes, and three-foot distancing will still be maintained in the building whenever possible.

“The governor and State Board of Education actually issued guidelines, [and] it says you should be trying to maintain three feet of distance whenever possible, but that it cannot be a reason to not have every student back in school,” Witherspoon explained.

When it comes to what these major changes will look like, many students aren’t entirely sure what to expect.

“I guess it will depend on the teacher and how much they enforce [mask-wearing],” said senior Avamarie Via. “I do think everyone will have their masks on, but a bunch of people will have it below their nose.”

Teachers are expected to fully enforce the mask-wearing policy and make sure that students are wearing masks correctly, and the consequences for not wearing masks would mirror other in-class infractions.

While Via wondered about how on-board every student will be regarding mask-wearing, she did expect three-foot distancing to happen almost universally.

“I’m assuming a bunch of teachers will do assigned seating and will keep the desks three feet apart. I guess it’ll be a little odd for group projects and stuff, which is kind of a win-win, because I hate group projects,” said Via.

Amidst all of the uncertainty surrounding the school year, the Evanston community continues to hope for the best.

“I’m hoping everyone will stay safe, and no one will do anything stupid, because I don’t think anybody wants to go back to what happened last year,” said Via.