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school districts have gone to remote learning exclusively by mid-September, affecting over 9 million students of more than 50 million public school students nationwide. There’s hardly a school district that had surplus bud- getary funds should a pandemic hit. Many schools are simply overwhelmed and at the behest of already dry state and local coffers to fund anything to aid reopening duing the pandemic. Many have received CARES Act funding yet feel it’s not enough. In March, Con-


gress’ stimulus bill provided about $13.5 billion to the nation’s primary and secondary schools via the CARES Act. But in early April, a joint letter by 12 special interest organiza- tions, including The School Su- perintendents Association and the American Federation of Teachers, au- thored a letter to Congress, which cited a survey of 1,600 school superintendents. Their responses indicated a woeful funding shortfall


to receive an additional $116.5 billion for safe reopening. In Canada, the federal government will provide $2


readers Said They will continue to use These Products after the Health Crisis Ceases:


99% Cleaning/disinfectant 69% Hand sanitizer dispensers 39% PPE 19% Routing/student tracking technology 13% Infrared thermometers 12% Wi-Fi routers (Out of 90 reader responses.)


for many services, with “costs associated with cleaning” drawing the highest response (86 percent of those sur- veyed), indicating a shortfall of funds. The associations outlined a specific need for $200 billion to better respond to K-12 education concerns in the wake of COVID-19. Aside from the CARES Act, other regions have received funding to aid reopening from state and local govern- ments. In Connecticut, the state government provided a $266 million package to assist in school reopening. The Maryland State Department of Education provided $10 million in grant funding to support in-person instruc- tion. Idaho would provide $50 million. Arizona would provide about $70 million, in addition to $200 million in CARES Act funding schools in the state would receive. While funding for infrastructure, services, cleaning,


ventilation, shielding, and PPE investment, and to pre- vent COVID-19 transmission has received some support from state and local funding, more money is needed. In Florida, the American Federation of Teachers, the


nation’s second-largest teachers union with more than 1.7 million members, launched a campaign for U.S. schools


40 School Transportation News • NOVEMBER 2020


billion in funding. Local provinces may give more on top of their share from federal funding. At least one prov- ince seems to be the most generous. The government of Ontario provided its schools with nearly $1.3 billion to support the reopening effort. This behemoth investment includes $90 million for personal protective equipment for staff and students; $79 million to hire up to 1,300 additional dedicat- ed custodians and purchase cleaning supplies, $65.5 million for en- hanced cleaning and safety mea- sures for student transportation, $50 million in one- time funding to support improved ventilation and HVAC system effectiveness in schools, and $44.5 million towards the school bus driver retention strategy.


State Response To broadcast the need for resources and funding in a


pandemic, some states are clearly outlining their needs and organizing coalitions to drive home its importance to student and staff safety, which includes transportation. In Massachusetts, the Coalition to Safely Reopen Schools


was recently formed. It is a statewide collaboration of school nurses, teachers, parents, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, librarians, school support staff, janitorial staff, labor, occupational health, and community advocates, who “came together to provide a frontline perspective and concrete medically-informed recommendations for what is needed to safely reopen for in-person learning.” The group is definitive in its position paper on reopen- ing and deatils what’s needed to reopen schools safely and err much on the side of caution: default to virtual and online learning until certain points of risk are mitigated. The focus on 16-points for reopening, most of which


include adequate policies, practices, and infrastructure to support safe reopening. These include known prac- tices such as hand washing, but also focus on things like adequate air circulation and ventilation. ●


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