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ETHS budget restores COVID cuts, adds staff

Spending to increase 5.2% to $96.5 million.

The District 202 Board of Education will vote Monday night on a final budget for the current school year which puts back money cut due to COVID-19, and also adds five new positions.

Those positions in the $96.5 million dollar Fiscal 2022 spending plan are a social worker, two case managers for special education, a science paraprofessional, and an athletic trainer.

In addition, Superintendent Eric Witherspoon says Evanston Township High School plans to incorporate “a more deliberately anti-racist agenda” at ETHS.

This budget is 5.2% greater than the previous school year’s document, an increase which is approximately double the normal annual growth.

Mary Rodino, the district’s chief financial officer, says the jump is greater than usual because this budget “includes an increased amount that had been cut in FY2021 due to COVID, and also $2.3 million in [federal] COVID relief funds.”

Even though Evanston is among the most COVID-vaccinated communities in the nation, the spread of the delta variant looms over any school spending plan.

In the budget document, Superintendent Witherspoon warns the “most urgent” concerns are “the unknowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the unknown needs and costs looming in the future.”

Besides voting on the budget, the school board will also discuss adding 6 new courses for the 2022-23 academic year: Advanced Game Design and Programming, Data Science, Biotechnology (currently a summer school offering), and three music classes.

The music courses are Piano and Music Tech for those with previous experience or coursework, and a Learn to Play Music for those with little or no background in instrumental music.

The Learn to Play class is part of the district’s equity commitment, as the description states “This course will provide access to learning an instrument for students of color who have traditionally been unable to access music within their previous course structure,” and will provide a pathway to band, orchestra, or chorus.

Jeff Hirsh

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

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