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The Price Tag of Reopening Schools This Fall

Posted by Versare on Jul 22nd 2020

With the next school year quickly approaching, districts are attempting to prepare for the new normal of school in the age of COVID-19. School districts, parents, and economic experts alike agree that schools need to reopen this fall for the health and social-emotional wellbeing of children as well as the financial health of families and the economy as a whole. The American Association of Pediatrics “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school”, recognizing the impact that school closings have already had on children. Additionally, parents can’t work effectively without schools or childcare options, so the economy won’t fully recover until schools can open.

Across the board, the importance of reopening schools is evident. But if schools can’t get the money they need to reopen safely, they may not be able to open at all.

$1.8 Million Per District Needed Just To Meet CDC Guidelines

Schools received $13.5 billion in March’s stimulus package, but they will need additional funds if they hope to reopen in the fall. Each district will need to spend an estimated $1.8 million that they hadn’t budgeted for simply to meet the CDC’s safety recommendations for schools. This includes:

  • purchasing health and safety supplies such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and other cleaning supplies as well as personal protective equipment like gloves and masks
  • hiring additional custodial staff and nurses
  • hiring aids to screen children’s temperatures before they embark on school buses
  • providing before- and after-school child care with proper social distancing and cleaning
  • providing disposable masks for an estimated 30% of students who don’t bring them from home.

With many schools already facing huge budget cuts, these costs are so prohibitive that some districts have already had to completely scrap plans for in-person classes this fall. And this list only scratches the surface of what schools will need to operate safely for the 2020-21 school year.

$116 Billion Needed in Addition

The American Federation of Teachers estimates that it will take an additional $116 billion (about $1.2 million per district) to safely and effectively reopen schools this fall. These funds are needed to:

  • prevent teacher layoffs due to pending budget cuts
  • provide internet access to millions of children who still lack access at home (a distance learning option will still be needed in case of an outbreak or to stagger students’ schedules)
  • provide additional academic support for students transitioning from months of remote learning
  • hire additional instructional staff (due to smaller class sizes, etc)
  • provide transportation for students

A note on that last one: with social distancing measures in place, buses would need to run at 25% capacity to safely transport students. Running them at such low capacity is highly inefficient, making the cost prohibitive for many school districts - not to mention the cost of adding more buses and drivers!

To reduce class sizes and provide proper distancing, many schools will also need to invest in room dividers and partitions to divide larger spaces like cafeterias and gyms, as well as health protection measures like countertop sneeze guards to protect school receptionists and other office staff.

Risks of Having to Close Again Due To An Outbreak

Without proper protections in place, the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in schools is high. This happened at schools in Israel in early June - nearly 10,000 students and teachers had to quarantine after returning to school for only 2 weeks. Parents will want assurance from schools that they are doing their utmost to keep children safe, and school districts certainly don’t want to put their students and staff in danger. Most superintendents say there’s no way they will be able to open safely without additional funding from the government.

What Will Your School Need to Reopen?

One of our recent blogs looks at the CDC’s recommendations for schools, and what safe and healthy schools could look like going forward (you can read that blog here). Where does your school fit in? Do they have the funds they need to reopen, and are there solid plans in place to keep students and staff safe? What will it take for parents to feel safe sending their children to school in the fall? What measures need to be in place for teachers and school staff to feel safe going to work?

The need for health safety measures in schools isn’t going away anytime soon. If your school is in need of room dividers, partitions, or sneeze guards to help create a safer environment for students and staff, Versare has you covered. Shop our online store here or give us a call at 800-830-0210.