Costs of COVID-19


Utilizing her new earbuds, senior Paetyn Clark works diligently in class to communicate with her fellow classmates through zoom.

Dani Robert, Reporter, Photographer

COVID-19 has rewritten the budgetary landscape for the 2020-2021 school year. 

Thankfully, Illinois State University has supplied U-High with many of the essentials needed for the school to reopen for in-person blended learning. 

“We’re really lucky in that ISU is purchasing a lot of the PPE (personal protective equipment) for us. All of the hand sanitizers, clear masks, plexiglass screens, goggle cleaners, and even gloves have all been from ISU’s budget,” principal Andrea Markert said. “In the beginning we had to purchase our own masks and gloves, but now ISU has taken over for that. We (U-High) have spent about $800 in supplies, not including thermometers.”

With the intent of having PPE available to the school, activities director Steve Evans has a bountiful supply of equipment that will help with COVID precautions.

Markert added that the school has purchased several thermometers for $50 each. These expenses add up to a large sum of money, which is coming directly from U-High’s financial reserves. 

Loss of Income

For many students around the United States, COVID has robbed them of their sporting seasons, spring and fall musicals, and other productions. While this has an obvious effect on the students’ well-being, it also contributes to a loss of revenue. 

“For extracurriculars, it hasn’t been the costs from COVID [that have impacted budgets], it’s the loss of revenue that we normally would have gotten,” Athletic director Steve Evans said. 

Markert estimates that approximately $80,000 to $100,000 have been lost due to the cancellation of activities such as football, basketball, and musicals. This loss of revenue may impact the school for many years. 

Additional revenue sources have also become unavailable due to the effects of the global pandemic. 

“We got none of the money from the school store in the first quarter,” Markert said. “You also have to think about all of the summer sports camps. All of that is a huge chunk of money that we have lost, and we usually put it back into our extra-curriculars.” 

U-High typically hosts multiple sports camps as well as youth camps. The money raised from those camps helps fund many of the extra-curriculars around the school.

“For Thespians, we actually already paid for the rights to perform ‘Grease’,” Budgeting Advisor Stacey Welter said.  “We lost big money on that because of how much it cost to put on that show. We got part of the money back, but not a lot of it.”

Other additional costs were in the form of bell covers for band instruments and mask protectors in order to amplify voice projections in chorus. 

Technology Additions

Each classroom is now equipped with a new iPad to provide a classroom view for remote learners. These iPads created the largest draw on school budgets, coming in at $13,000. Additionally, teachers received microphones to help facilitate discussion between remote and in-class learners during blended learners. Some teachers were also supplied with new laptops for an easier transition into blended learning. In their return-to-school packet, each student was also given a pair of SkullCandy earbuds that will help with remote learning. 

Even sporting events require technological expenses as fans are not allowed to watch sporting events in-person. In response to this, the school is purchasing two cameras that will be used to live-stream several sporting events. 

“U-High will get two cameras, ” Evans said. “One will go in Hancock Stadium, and one will go in the gym. That is one initial cost that we (U-High) is choosing to pay for.”

While the school will cover the costs of the technology, fans will choose to subscribe to the streaming service if they want access to the games. 

“You’ll have access to not only U-High events in the gym or at Hancock,” Evans said. “But you can also watch any other school that has the NFHS network. It is $69.99 for a year, and $10.99 per month.” 

Help from Illinois

Due to the current pandemic, the state of Illinois is helping some schools by giving grants for extra expenses needed for COVID-19. The grant was given to the laboratory schools as a district. 

“We have been granted 60% of the money, so about $11,000 dollars,” Markert said. ”Metcalf gets the other 40% of the grant. Now that being said, we are unsure of when we will get the money. We are hoping to get it sometime this school year.”

ISU applied for this grant in order to cover expenses that were necessary to ensure safety for all of the students at U-High and Metcalf. 

“The grant that we applied for was for around 18,000 dollars,” Interim Director of Laboratory Schools, Barbara Meyer Ed.D. said.  “We asked both of the principals what was needed to provide for remote learning or blended learning in a better format.”

This grant will go towards more equipment that U-High will use for the remainder of this year, and possibly years to come.

“We don’t know what the future is going to bring us. We don’t know how long we are going to sustain in a blended format, whether we need to go back to remote, or move to four days in-person,” Meyer said. “We just don’t know what those costs are going to be. For now, we are trying to be conservative, and that’s the best way to be when it comes to finances.”