The Alamance-Burlington School System is the beneficiary of more than $2 million in federal and state COVID-19 assistance funding, with more to come in future weeks and months.
As explained by Chief Finance Officer Jeremy Teetor in Tuesday’s ABSS virtual Work Session, the school system is receiving $861,000 from North Carolina as part of $50 million being distributed to schools around the state, as well as more than $1.2 million from the United States Department of Education through the CARES Act.
Teetor explained that North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has repurposed summer reading camp monies that weren’t to be utilized this year, along with other state emergency funds that were discretionary to the Governor, to come up with the $50 million in public school funding. Of that, ABSS is receiving the $861,000. This money will assist ABSS with sanitation supplies, purchasing hot spots for folks without internet, as well as a Chromebook purchase.
“That was very timely money. And the state got that to us very quickly,” Teetor explained.
In addition, Alamance County will also be receiving approximately $5.6 million of the $396,000,000 of CARES Act federal funding for public schools throughout the state of North Carolina.
The CARES Act money is passed from the federal government to the U.S. Department of Education, who subsequently pushes it to state education officials such as the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. DPI created a formula to distribute the funds out to the various school systems across the state. The formula was driven by enrollment, as well as the number of students in Title I schools.
School nutrition is consuming approximately $75 million of that $396 million statewide, with $70 million going to summer learning, another $35 million going to devices, $12 million for internet connectivity, and $4.5 million for cybersecurity, among other expenses.
Alamance County is slated to receive slightly more than most counties due to the number of Title I students within this county - approximately $5.6 million. The actual amount - $5,647,727, could be slightly revised based on charter school enrollments.
Items anticipated to be covered by ABSS through the $5.6 million from the federal government includes sanitizing spray for building interiors with protection that holds for six months ($50,000), increased cleaning frequency and/or increased number of day porters, as well as sanitizing school buses ($903,280), additional sanitizing materials and sanitizing stations in buildings ($50,000), Intervention Support for learning recovery ($1.2 million), Mental Health Support ($1.35 million), and Medical Professionals in each building ($675,000).
The $1.2 million for learning recovery was determined by the impact of no school in July for ABSS’s three year-round schools, and covering the cost of teachers’ salaries for that period of time, while also providing them priority for summer work opportunities until the traditional 2020-21 school year begins in August on most ABSS campuses.
Additional mental health support is going to be very important both for students and for faculty in the coming year. The $1.35 million covered by the federal government would cover the cost of 18 mental health support professionals within ABSS, with benefits. The school system will eventually contract for those positions, and work is already being done to establish exact figures for the mental health support contracting.
“Our students are going to need a lot of support,” Teetor mentioned.
Along with increasing mental health staffing within ABSS schools, another priority for principals and other administrators throughout the school system was to add additional medical personnel. The $675,000 allotted from the CARES Act would cover the cost of nine additional nurses throughout ABSS schools.
“We identified our goal of getting a nurse in every school as a priority over the next three years. That desire is only heightened in this situation,” Teetor added.
There are also costs built in for absorbing the impact of the DPI adjustments due to potential ADM (Average Daily Membership) declines ($375,000), Exceptional Children comp services ($500,000), technology needs ($444,447), and $100,000 set aside for private schools.
“Students with special learning needs may not be getting all those needs met,” Teetor said. “We’ve got some money here set aside to address anything we may be required to offer our EC students as they prepare to return to school, that’s above and beyond what me might be able to normally offer with our resources.”
Repairs to damaged devices was of particular concern to principals, as the likelihood of damage goes up when devices are removed from school grounds and enter the private possession of students, and those repair costs are typically incurred by the schools themselves.
Along with the money already received, ABSS will also receive funds later this summer through two General Assembly actions - Senate Bill 704 and House Bill 1043. The N.C. Department of Public Instruction is still working on a formula to disperse those funds to school systems.
“They are ultimately going to send four buckets of money to Alamance County, with the first priority being funding for school nutritions,” Teetor mentioned.