More than midway through the academic year in Maine, political leaders, parents and teachers are debating if and when to completely resume schools.
Getting less attention is how much money schools have received to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and how they are spending it.
Maine’s public school districts have spent millions of dollars retrofitting buildings to be safe, improving ventilation, refurbishing classrooms, spreading out new work-alone desks and establishing outside mentor locations.
Kindergarten through grade 12 schools got $44 million in the very first federal coronavirus relief plan authorized by Congress at the beginning of the pandemic last year.
When including all federal relief funds steered to Maine schools, they have actually been approved $448 million, which included cash for pre-K, child care, adult education and personal protective equipment.
“We can account to a penny for this cash going to the coronavirus things, since that’s precisely what this money was meant,” Portland Public Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana said.
In addition to its $120 million budget, Portland schools got $16 million prior to reopening in September.
“The bulk of this money went to pay for personnel that we put in place to help us resume schools. We have, you know, 70 positions that we’ve moneyed out of this cash,” Botana stated. “We’ve included nurses. We have actually included professionals. In each of our schools, 2 to 3 extra ed tech positions that are assisting to manage the procedures.”
8 Examines asked other school districts and the Maine Department of Education how coronavirus relief money was invested. The costliest products were ventilation, innovation and personnel.
“Ventilation upgrades and air quality would be the greatest ticket products that we spent,” Biddeford Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Ray stated.
School districts statewide invested $128,685,576 on air quality system upgrades, which totals up to 29% of all federal coronavirus funds.
Innovation upgrades schools made, consisted of buying computers to facilitate remote knowing.
“Technology was a big piece of where we invested cash due to the fact that our kids were not on an even playing field,” Ray stated.
Ray stated every trainee in his district has a Chromebook or an iPad, and teachers who needed a computer system got a brand-new one.
“We required to make our kids had a gadget in hand that worked and had the capability to link to the Web,” Ray stated.
Portland also spent a considerable quantity of its coronavirus relief funds on brand-new computer systems.
“We spent $3.5 million on computers,” Botana said.
After getting $16 million in federal funds this fall, Portland schools are deciding what to do with the $4.5 million left.
Botana stated the district plans to utilize $1.5 million for partner programs that keep students participated in activities on remote days. The federal funds let the district maximize other cash for reserves and to cover costs like $800,000 in lost school lunch income.
“The USDA reimburses us for the lunches that we serve, so if we serve fewer lunches, we get less repayment,” Botana stated. “We have some less costs due to the fact that we’re not purchasing as much food and things along those lines, however we have actually some fixed costs, that are staffing and things along those lines.”
Federal relief funds appear to be flowing to schools faster than they can invest them. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Congress has authorized $68 billion for the country’s K-12 schools, but just $5.1 billion of that cash has been spent.
SCHOOLS TO RECEIVE MORE FINANCING
There is more federal relief concerning Maine schools, in the quantity of $183 million contained in the relief bill approved by Congress in December.
Integrated with the $448 million formerly allocated to Maine’s public schools, they will have gotten an overall of $631 million in relief funds, not consisting of possible aid from the new Biden administration.
School districts are experiencing a monetary windfall, with Congress making spending deadlines more lax.
The cash left over from last year does not need to be invested till completion of 2021. The brand-new $183 million does not require to be spent up until the end of 2022.
“I’m exceptionally grateful at having that versatility,” Botana stated. “Part of the thinking around this is it’s going to be challenging to be able to raise regional taxes in the exact same method that you would if we didn’t have a pandemic.”
“Those funds begin to target the future, and while you state there may not be a coronavirus in 2 years, I think that we’re gon na have some of the impact from this falling into next year,” Ray stated.
Ray stated not all requirements triggered by the pandemic are instant. He stated there will be continuous costs to keep structures safe and address long-term learning deficits.
“Certainly, kids have fallen back. There will be needs for enhanced summer school. Transportation may look different for a very long time,” Ray said. “Healing can take some time, and just like it will take time for the economy to recover, it’s gon na take time for schools to recover.”