Should Evanston/Skokie School District 65 sell ads on school buses to raise revenue? Should each teacher have more students per class, to save money? And in one of the most potentially controversial issues, should any of the District’s schools be closed or consolidated?
Those are among the questions in an 18-point online “Budget Reduction Survey” that District 65 wants parents, students, staff and other community members to fill out.
There’s little doubt that budget cuts are coming. The issue now is how they will be carried out. In a memo to the community explaining the survey, Superintendent Devon Horton says “A year ago, no one could have predicted there would be a pandemic, extended school closures, or the economic fallout that would ensue.”
Next month, the Board of Education will cut up to $1.9 million for the upcoming school year (2021-22). The community survey, however, does not deal with those reductions. Rather, it asks for ideas on potential budget savings and revenue sources for the three years after that. Without long-term change, Horton says, District 65 faces a $15 million deficit in school year 2025-26.
Survey questions also include whether certain “programs, services or activities or district initiatives” should be considered for reduction or elimination as the budget is cut, including athletics, art and music, physical education, diversity/equity initiatives, and after school programs.
More information on the rationale for the survey is available on the district’s website. Responses are requested by Feb. 26.
The survey comes as about half of District 65’s 7,000-plus students will return to the classroom on Tuesday for the first time in nearly a year, as the hybrid school plan gets under way. The rest of the students will remain on remote learning. Parents were given the option of one choice or the other.
At Evanston Township High School (District 202), all the 3,600 students are remaining on remote education for now. However, also on Tuesday, ETHS begins a variety of voluntary “in-person activities” on campus, such as arts, sports, and academic enrichment programs.
Social distancing and other health and hygiene mitigations will be in place at both districts.