The costs of outfitting a school, fit to survive a deadly worldwide pandemic, aren’t cheap. “We most certainly are up there. Well above half a million dollars or so in expenses that we have incurred so far,” says Mr. Thomas Mazza, the Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations at Longmeadow Public Schools.
To open up schools, the district purchased 1,300 chromebooks for each student in the district tallying up to about $300,000 and then spent about another $340,000 on Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), safety equipment, iPads for teachers, and professional development. “We have another $100,000 or so scheduled, in purchase orders, waiting for additional materials and equipment,” says Mr. Mazza.
To fund these new expenses the district relied heavily The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, says Mr. Mazza. The aid comes from three different funds, all of which the district has tapped into. The first fund, The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CVRF), part of the CARES Act, totals $629,000, is for expenses incurred related to reopening that are specific to coronavirus changes and has a short time frame in which it can be used. “We have spent about half of that, maybe a little bit more,” says Mr. Mazza. The second one, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF), also part of CARES, is about $242,000. This fund has been used less for now, only about $30,000 spent, owing to the longer timeline it can be accessed.
The third source, the one that the Chromebooks were purchased on, is the $1.4 million dollars given to the Town of Longmeadow through the CARES Act to use for town related pandemic responses, including those relating to schools.
Why are some of these costs so high? This summer the schools had to outfit themselves with plexiglass separators, invest in ventilation system upgrades, invest in air purifiers, upgrade the nurses’ offices to include isolation rooms, but some of the most expensive costs are the least obvious. “At the beginning of each class, you take a disinfectant wipe and wipe down the desk and chair where you’ll be sitting. Just in round numbers, 500 students going through five different classes during the day, you’re talking about 2,500 wipes each day at the high school. Over the course of the four days that students are in the building, [that’s] 10,000 wipes just at the high school,” says Mr. Mazza.