ETHS marching band practice. (Shaina Young photo)

The $96.3 million dollar budget approved Monday night by the District 202 Board of Education has money for salaries, equipment and even new employees to help Evanston Township High School return to some semblance of pre-COVID reality.

But a tiny sliver of that budget will also go a long way restoring a key part of high school that students missed during remote education, something which just won’t cut it on Zoom: Homecoming.

The 2021-22 spending plan sets aside $40,000 for student activities, money that was part of an unexpected increase in property tax revenues.

No, the entire $40,000 will not go for homecoming. Other things will be covered as well.

However, Chief Financial Officer Mary Rodino told the school board that activities such as homecoming are an important part of the student experience.

Rodino, whose job is to carefully watch every penny of the $96.3 million budget, admitted with a laugh that “honestly, as a financial person sometimes for me it seems a bit frivolous” to look at school spirit as a line item.

But she also said spending on homecoming “lets kids be kids, and return to the kind of things that they like to do,” particularly after more than a year of COVID-imposed restrictions.

A variety of Spirit Week activities will be held each day at ETHS next week, followed by the Homecoming Dance on Saturday night.

Rodino pointed out that $40,000 is only about $10 per ETHS student for the entire academic year, which should include plenty for a “fantastic homecoming.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.