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Virginia schools paying millions for coronavirus protections for fall reopening

We're working for you to figure out how they are going to pay for it all on budgets that are already tight

ROANOKE, Va. – Reopening schools safely is not cheap. School systems are spending millions of dollars to keep students and staff safe in the fall.

Our in-depth look at reopening schools continues as we’re working for you to figure out how they are going to pay for it all on budgets that are already tight.

Facemasks, more bus runs and cleaning supplies. School systems are scrambling trying to figure out how they are going to pay for all the changes it will take to re-open schools.

“There will be cuts to education,” said Dan Domenech, the executive director of the School Superintendents Association who says it will cost about $30 billion for schools across the country to reopen.

Domenech represents 14,000 superintendent’s across the country. They were surveyed asking what it would cost them to reopen schools following CDC guidelines.

For an average school district in America, about 3,700 students, it would cost $1.8 million dollars. That rounds out to about $490 per student.

For large school systems like Roanoke City with about 14,000 students, that’s more than $6.8 million.

School systems already having to cut teacher raises and other programs to make their budgets work this year. We took the issue to Virginia lawmakers who are on different sides about who should pay.

“I don’t know if there’s going to be any additional money to help directly for the state directly go to school divisions for COVID related expenses. I think we’re still relying on the federal government to do that,” said Chris Hurst, a Democrat who represents parts of the New River Valley. “I think what we need to see is another round of funding that would be able to be more broadly used so that anything that might be an indirect COVID expense could also be used to maintain budget shortfalls.”

“I think the Democrats are saying we need a bailout from Washington then we are more lost than I thought. We have a constitutional mandate to provide a quality education for all of our children and again I think we’ve got to get back to work,” said Chris Head, a Republican who represents parts of the Roanoke Valley and wants a to see a special session of Virginia lawmakers. “We don’t have a date that’s even been proposed so that becomes very frustrating and the clock is ticking. There are a lot of things we’ve got to address and this is a major issue.”

The CARES act gave millions to states to pay for things like cleaning, distance learning, and after school programs. Virginia public schools will receive more than $238 million in federal funding. 90-percent of that money is going to local school systems but it may not be enough.

“We’re running out of it quickly. We’re really trying to be as cautious and careful with the spending as we can but things add up,” said Rob Graham, Radford City schools superintendent. “We’re finding out that protecting our students, protecting our staff and equipping our schools so that they are safe is a lot more than we thought it was going to be.”

Graham says they haven’t cut anything yet and are trying to be careful.

“Faculty and staff is small and so important to us so we have no plans to reduce in force or furlough or anything of that nature. What we have done is we put a freeze on instructional funds and capital outlay funds and things of that nature just so we can see what happens in the near future,” said Graham.

If school systems can’t get more money, cuts could be made in some school systems.

Domenech says many of those will be staff since budgets are typically 85% staff costs.

“At times like this when you actually need additional personnel not less, it’s a challenge. It’s going to be a significant challenge to our school districts to be able to open safely for our students,” said Domenech. “Under the worst of circumstances, it would be to fall back to remote learning entirely. Nobody wants that we want the children back in the school. The parents want the children back in the school. Surprisingly, the children want to be back in school. So everybody wants to be back in school.”

U.S. lawmakers may pass another round of money that could include more money for schools but that is still being debated.

The following is from the Virginia Department of Education and includes a breakdown of how much money each school system is receiving:

The CARES Act gives local school divisions wide latitude in how they spend their allocations. Approved uses for the funding include, but are not limited to the following:

· Services and expenses directly related to the pandemic, such as cleaning of schools and other facilities;

· Expenses related to providing extended learning opportunities, including summer and after-school programs;

· Instructional and support services for economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, homeless students, migrant students, students in foster care, and racial and ethnic minority students;

· Expenses related to expanding and improving distance learning options for all students;

· Mental health services; and

· Career and technical education.

CARES Act allocations to school divisions and other educational agencies are as follows:

· Accomack County — $1,713,822.36

· Albemarle County — $1,268,193.06

· Alexandria — $3,631,222.12

· Alleghany County — $507,038.88

· Amelia County — $288,826.84

· Amherst County — $821,580.85

· Appomattox County — $450,295.00

· Arlington County — $2,065,392.31

· Augusta County — $1,120,251.15

· Bath County — $73,903.89

· Bedford County — $1,288,950.83

· Bland County — $118,646.66

· Botetourt County — $331,218.41

· Bristol — $1,142,301.89

· Brunswick County — $664,211.12

· Buchanan County — $1,210,035.85

· Buckingham County — $580,167.95

· Buena Vista — $210,781.68

· Campbell County — $1,320,250.91

· Caroline County — $751,173.29

· Carroll County — $889,205.44

· Charles City County — $148,233.81

· Charlotte County — $609,305.37

· Charlottesville — $1,204,810.29

· Chesapeake — $6,280,543.81

· Chesterfield County — $5,636,406.31

· Clarke County — $150,407.63

· Colonial Beach — $257,035.97

· Colonial Heights — $504,406.81

· Covington — $209,881.54

· Craig County — $150,675.36

· Culpeper County — $1,239,167.69

· Cumberland County — $390,636.42

· Danville — $3,220,926.23

· Department of Juvenile Justice — $142,983.39

· Dickenson County — $764,673.05

· Dinwiddie County — $668,369.21

· Essex County — $413,664.97

· Fairfax County — $21,088,893.02

· Falls Church — $38,148.96

· Fauquier County — $695,782.57

· Floyd County — $393,774.17

· Fluvanna County — $302,655.46

· Franklin — $626,670.64

· Franklin County — $1,492,694.30

· Frederick County — $1,162,163.53

· Fredericksburg — $881,743.13

· Galax — $494,144.38

· Giles County — $389,204.58

· Gloucester County — $633,644.36

· Goochland County — $255,214.19

· Grayson County — $578,884.29

· Greene County — $362,894.14

· Greensville County — $821,079.24

· Halifax County — $1,324,867.48

· Hampton — $5,873,321.17

· Hanover County — $927,656.89

· Harrisonburg — $1,261,515.63

· Henrico County — $9,293,830.67

· Henry County — $2,128,914.30

· Highland County — $43,540.72

· Hopewell — $1,485,103.36

· Isle of Wight County — $536,829.84

· King and Queen County — $171,617.07

· King George County — $336,540.56

· King William County — $202,411.25

· Lancaster County — $340,612.41

· Lee County — $1,403,765.18

· Lexington — $52,044.52

· Loudoun County — $1,282,207.94

· Louisa County — $783,289.86

· Lunenburg County — $472,088.46

· Lynchburg — $3,311,790.46

· Madison County — $319,527.87

· Manassas — $1,066,318.18

· Manassas Park — $276,815.39

· Martinsville — $939,212.89

· Mathews County — $165,484.24

· Mecklenburg County — $1,187,389.23

· Middlesex County — $295,177.20

· Montgomery County — $1,546,920.40

· Nelson County — $429,944.98

· New Kent County — $217,575.00

· Newport News — $9,605,772.18

· Norfolk — $12,665,678.94

· Northampton County — $595,390.85

· Northumberland County — $412,868.17

· Norton — $220,386.97

· Nottoway County — $701,234.10

· Orange County — $623,387.63

· Page County — $736,593.49

· Patrick County — $567,671.28

· Petersburg — $2,619,379.52

· Pittsylvania County — $1,927,445.27

· Poquoson — $56,089.54

· Portsmouth — $5,336,804.60

· Powhatan County — $236,490.00

· Prince Edward County — $801,046.31

· Prince George County — $534,073.17

· Prince William County — $9,260,965.99

· Pulaski County — $867,331.61

· Radford — $280,586.07

· Rappahannock County — $145,156.14

· Richmond — $13,251,928.45

· Richmond County — $249,706.68

· Roanoke — $5,925,872.65

· Roanoke County — $1,095,848.13

· Rockbridge County — $452,254.13

· Rockingham County — $1,417,685.20

· Russell County — $1,051,083.18

· Salem — $454,470.89

· Scott County — $669,819.49

· Shenandoah County — $965,090.43

· Smyth County — $1,118,606.75

· Southampton County — $495,235.09

· Spotsylvania County — $2,420,333.63

· Stafford County — $1,547,757.83

· Staunton — $703,424.63

· Suffolk — $2,919,033.01

· Surry County — $173,936.20

· Sussex County — $430,345.98

· Tazewell County — $1,471,287.87

· Virginia Beach — $10,110,336.67

· Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind — $75,390.40

· Warren County — $798,325.92

· Washington County — $1,515,255.53

· Waynesboro — $875,533.27

· West Point — $42,321.78

· Westmoreland County — $574,982.34

· Williamsburg-James City County — $1,163,874.18

· Winchester — $959,388.84

· Wise County — $ 1,837,421.01

· Wythe County — $852,633.01

· York County — $592,235.54

This is part of an ongoing in-depth 10 News series looking into reopening schools in Virginia. Jenna Zibton is working for you, investigating many different angles of what the changes and challenges mean for families, staff, and the community. Contact Jenna if you have questions by email or on Facebook.


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