Superintendent Eric Witherspoon told the District 202 Board of Education Monday night that the district will have to do “some layoffs” due to financial challenges from the coronavirus pandemic.

Witherspoon did not say how many layoffs, nor give a timeline or job categories. As the Board considered the Fiscal 2021 budget, the superintendent explained that the district has seen “hundreds of thousands of dollars worth” of new expenses, ranging from $30,000 in improved building ventilation, to $48,000 for digital “hot spots,” to $54,000 to help train teachers in e-learning, among many other costs.

Other unexpected expenses range from delivering fresh food to the homes of culinary students, to picking up 1,200 books that students had not returned. And that many more books are still out there, waiting to be retrieved as well.

Witherspoon said the district has actually hired social workers to help students deal with pandemic-related stress, and 30 other employees have been “repurposed” rather than let go. With school being held remotely instead of in the ETHS building, those 30 jobs were not needed. However, Witherspoon said the employees were kept on the payroll, to help with a variety of student and family support services.

The superintendent explained the district also lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees, for things such as day care, food and other revenue producers.

To balance the new budget, $1.4 million had to be cut from the tentative budget proposal of a few months ago. The $91.4 million all-funds budget, which includes $79.7 million for daily operations, and the rest for items such as capital improvements, was unanimously approved. The operating portion is 0.3% more than in FY 2020.

ETHS has been on remote learning since school opened in mid-August. Officials expect to remain that way at least through the end of 2020.

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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