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With Coronavirus In Chicago, Some Public Schools Cancel Their Biggest Fundraisers Of The Year

Schools are instead raising money online. "Everybody in the district, is trying to make good decisions right now," Brentano Elementary's principal said.

A previous Friends of Brentano event.
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LOGAN SQUARE — With coronavirus in Chicago and cases only expected to rise, many public school leaders are canceling their annual spring fundraisers and opting to raise money online instead.

The move could result in fewer donations and lost sponsorship deals, which could ultimately mean fewer improvement projects, but leaders say they have to follow the recommendation of medical experts who are urging everyone not to participate in large social gatherings.

Illinois has now had 25 people test positive for coronavirus — most of them in Chicago and surrounding Cook County. Medical experts say there will be more cases in the coming days.

RELATED: Coronavirus In Chicago: Here’s What’s Happening Today

Public schools across Chicago hold big fundraisers every spring to fund improvements that the cash-strapped district doesn’t pay for like upgrades to gyms and auditoriums, plus supplies like books and uniforms.

Brentano Elementary’s big spring fundraiser was supposed be held Friday at Michelle’s Ballroom, but school leaders decided on Thursday to cancel the event due to the coronavirus and instead raise money online.

“If there’s a chance that by not hosting this party, we can flatten the curve and do our part to slow the rate of the spread, that’s the right thing to do,” Brentano principal Seth Lavin said.

Brentano’s annual spring fundraiser is the school’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Last year, the school, 2723 N. Fairfield Ave., raised $20,000 toward facility upgrades.

This year, Brentano school is raising money to replace all of the old blinds in the school — both for climate control and to keep the sun out of kids’ eyes while they’re learning.

Lavin said canceling the event, while “the right thing to do,” will ultimately hurt the school.

“We won’t raise as much money if we had done the event. Definitely making this decision leaves money on the table, but it’s worth it if it means keeping people healthy,” he said.

Alison Hightower, the Friends of Brentano group’s fundraiser chair, said this year’s fundraiser drew four times the amount of sponsorship money than that of previous years — about $10,000 — but that money could be lost.

“I feel very disappointed. It was not an easy choice to make,” Hightower said.

School leaders at Chappell Elementary School, 2135 W. Foster Ave., on Wednesday canceled their dance-a-thon fundraiser, one of their biggest fundraisers of the year, which was to be held March 21 in the school gym.

The fundraiser is now a “virtual” dance-a-thon with an online link to donate.

“Let your kids dance in the comfort of your home,” a Facebook post reads.

The money raised will go toward the school garden and beekeeping program and school assemblies.

Some school leaders haven’t decided whether or not they’ll cancel fundraising events in hopes the coronavirus spread slows down in the coming weeks.

Goethe Elementary School, 2236 N. Rockwell St., which has a big fundraiser planned in a few weeks, is taking a “wait and see” approach, according to Friends of Goethe member Nicole Dalesandro.

“Canceling would be really bad for us. We’d have to refund a lot of money. We have contracts for the venue and the band. .. it’s an unknown. It could be a break even situation. If people want refunds, we could be refunding $7,000 in just tickets alone,” Dalesandro said.

Last year, Goethe raised $44,000. The school has used fundraiser money to pay for basketball rims, volleyball nets, uniforms and books.

“We don’t want to cancel prematurely,” Dalesandro said. “I guess we’re all kind of being hopeful.”

Still, Dalesandro said they’ll likely move the auction portion online because some people won’t be comfortable attending a large-scale event during the pandemic.

 “It’s a tough moment. … everybody in the city, everybody in the district, is trying to make good decisions right now,” Lavin said.

A CPS spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

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