As Clark County school districts prepare for another year of virtual learning, they continue to bear the costs of moving online in the spring.
School districts are beginning to receive their first reimbursements of federal funding meant to curb the costs of supporting students during the coronavirus pandemic.
Area schools are eligible for more than $13 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding. Those dollars are based on a school district’s Title I funds, federal money set aside to serve low-income students — the more low-income families whose children attend any given school district, the more CARES Act money they can receive.
The state in total received $216 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund created by the CARES Act, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Those allocations, however, don’t come as a blank check. Districts must ask for reimbursement of purchases connected to their pandemic response, like buying internet hot spots for students, providing meals for students or equipping staff with personal protective equipment.
Battle Ground Public Schools technology staff, for example, spent Tuesday preparing one coronavirus purchase covered by the CARES Act: computers. Masked Battle Ground technology services employees spent Monday and Tuesday setting up desktop computers for staff gearing up for at least a few more weeks teaching from their home offices or dining room tables.
The district was eligible for about $1.5 million in CARES funding, according to OSPI. District spokeswoman Rita Sanders said the district’s initial reimbursement request of $273,000 will help cover the spring costs of child care, printing of packets for remote learning, cleaning supplies and other technology upgrades.
Evergreen Public Schools is also preparing its first request for about $2.5 million of its total $4.9 million allocation, district spokeswoman Gail Spolar said. Like Battle Ground, those dollars will be used to cover software and personal protective equipment, but it will also pay the salaries of bus drivers tasked with delivering meals and school staff who worked at the district’s day care for essential employees.
Some district officials warn that the funding may not be enough to cover all costs connected to the coronavirus pandemic. Vancouver Public Schools is eligible for the most funding under the CARES Act, receiving about $5.4 million, the most of any school district in Clark County.
Chief Fiscal Officer Brett Blechschmidt, however, said the district is already $1 million to $2 million over that. The district has spent substantial amounts of money on technology upgrades, its meal program, protective gear and preparation for the 2020-2021 school year.
The district plans to apply for additional money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to supplement the CARES Act funds.
At a budget workshop this spring, Blechschmidt warned of the high costs of responding to the pandemic.
“It’s going to be expensive, and it’s going to be complicated,” he said.