When the new school year begins next fall, families in District 65 will likely have to pay a fee for supplies once again.

The district has received $10.6 million in federal COVID-related assistance the past couple of years, but that money, all of which has to be spent by the end of September, 2024, is running out.

Among a variety of purchases, the federal help let District 65 waive the annual $50 fee per child for school supplies in the last school year and this current one.

However, earlier this week, the district’s Finance Committee recommended that the full Board of Education reinstate the fee for 2024-25, because the federal subsidy will be gone.

It’s technically not a new charge, but rather a return to something that is already on the books but was covered by dollars from Washington.

While $50 may not be a huge amount for many, finance panel chair Joey Hailpern noted that “some of us have four kids.”

Families eligible for free or reduced price lunch will still be able to have supply fees waived or lowered.

Much of the federal relief funding was used for COVID mitigation, such as personal protective equipment, or to help students recover from pandemic-related learning loss.

While some of the expenditures may not be needed again, if District 65 wants to continue certain programs, money will have to be found from other sources.

For example, the school system is spending $1 million per year to hire 60 tutors for Academic Skills Centers.

Officials say those Centers have helped many students catch up in their schoolwork.

But the federal dollars for the tutors, as well as for free supplies, will disappear.

Another District 65 fee, which has been in effect during COVID, will be going up for about 100 of the school system’s 6,100 K-8 students next school year.

Those students are bused to specialty programs such as magnet schools, the African-Centered program, and TWI (Bilingual immersion/only English speakers pay).

The 5% increase works out to $28 more per child (to $583 per year), and $8 per child (to $174) for those on reduced price meals. There is no charge for those on free lunch.

School bus expenses are skyrocketing for the district, due to higher pay to attract and retain drivers, along with other inflationary impact.

Chief Financial Officer Raphael Obafemi told the committee that the 5% increase is “very modest” when considering “the actual cost of what the district is incurring.”

Other student fees, such as the $100 general activity fee, $40/50 (Elementary/Middle), and the $40 technology fee, are expected to remain the same, along with discounts for those on reduced price meals, and fee waivers for those eligible for free meals.

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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