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Talk about the financial impact to USD 373 of COVID-19 and you get a good news/bad news conversation.
The bad news is to date the pandemic has cost the district thousands in added expenses. The good news is there is federal funding to cushion the blow — and that funding has not been used up.
The total amount available through the CARES Act is $453,653 for USD 373, with an additional $24,073 allocated to private schools (St. Mary's, a Title I school).
“That will include expenditures through Sept. 2021,” said superintendent Deb Hamm. “How will we address that a number of students that missed eight weeks of school. ... There will be a lot of decisions moving forward to what that looks like.”
There have been added expenses for the 2019-20 school year — the largest in the area of food service. The district provided meals through a drive-up service to USD 373 families — any family could receive a breakfast and lunch for each student for each day school would have been in session before the buildings were closed by executive order of the governor.
That cost the district more than $48,000. Funds came from federal grants to assist.
“Our expenses have been around providing food for our students that is above normal costs, and maintenance things — cleaning and disinfecting that we have been doing,” Hamm said. “We have some minor technology expenses and printing expenses for printing packets and things that were directly related to this.”
The technology expense came from setting up computers and devices for students to take home, as while buildings were closed education moved online.
According to numbers prepared for the Newton Board of Education, COVID-19 response cost the district $67,391.61 through May 12.
It is unclear what will happen when school resumes in August.
“We know we will have a need to increase, in some way, access for students. It is a small number of students, but there are students who do not have access right now,” Hamm said. “That is something else to be thinking about as we go into the summer months.”
Also unclear at this time is what changes will be made to the schools this summer — if there will be plastic barriers for administrative desks between district staff and the public, and what changes may need to happen for sanitation, food service or other areas of the school.
“There are no for sures in how this virus will act,“ Hamm said. ”... Our teachers are concerned and our administrators are concerned about what next year will look like for us.“
Buildings will continue to be closed to the public, with some buildings reopening June 1 — contingent on announcements by Gov. Laura Kelly as the state moves through her four-phase plan to reopen the state.