State Board of Education aligns policies with law to distribute $40 million in federal coronavirus aid

The State Board of Education (SBE)  made several moves Monday to align board policy with House Bill 1105 to pave the way for the distribution of nearly $40 million in federal CARES ACT dollars to help local school districts mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

HB 1105, also known as the Coronavirus Relief Act 3.0, was signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on Sept. 4. The $1.1 billion relief package provides a one-time payment of $335 to families with a child under the age of 18 to help offset unexpected costs related to school closures.

On Monday, the SBE focused on schools that have reopened or are planning to reopen for in person instruction in the wake of Cooper’s decision to allow districts to bring K-5 students back for in person instruction beginning Oct. 5.

The lion’s share of the $40 million — $27 million — is intended to help school districts buy personal protective equipment for staff and students.

The move comes as some districts, including the state’s largest in Wake County, prepare to send children back into classrooms for in person learning. The Wake County Board of Education will consider today whether to bring students back for limited in-person instruction beginning Oct. 26.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction will distribute the money for personal protective equipment using a formula based on average daily membership (ADM) and one that incorporates whether districts have students in schools for in person learning. Districts that do will receive larger shares of the money.

Here’s how the formula will work:

  • A school district operating in Phase B (a mix of remote and in person instruction) on September 1 will receive three times above the amount it would receive based on ADM if it only offered remote learning.
  • A school district operating in Phase A/B (full time for K-5 and a mix of in person and remote learning for 6-12) on Oct. 5 will receive 2.5 times more money based on ADM than if it only offered remote learning.
  • A school district operating in Phase A/B full time for K-5 and a mix of in person and remote learning for 6-12) on Oct. 26 will receive 2 times more money based on ADM than if it only offered remote learning.
  • Districts only providing remote learning (Phase C) will receive one equal share.

SBE vice Chairman Alan Duncan said a board committee struggled to develop a formula to fairly distribute the money for personal protective equipment.

Duncan said districts that have been in school under Phase B (a mix of in person and remote learning) need more help purchasing personal protective equipment than those that only provides remote learning.

He said he knows of at least one district that reopened under Phase B that has already gone through its annual disinfectant budget.

“We think this is as fair as it can be under all the circumstances with the circumstances being imperfect at best,” Duncan said.

The second largest share of money — $10 million – will help districts buy devices that allow students to connect to remote learning. HB 1105 authorized the additional $10 million on top of $11 million already allocated. Districts that still need devices must apply for shares of the money.

“Some public school units have no additional needs and some do, so the recommendation is to allocate that out to where the needs continue to be,” said Alexis Schauss, chief business officer for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

HB 1105 also authorized $1 million for Alamance Burlington Schools for school nutrition services, transportation services, technology, remote instruction materials and services, personal protective equipment, temperature screening tools, Alamance-Burlington Connects Initiative, and other goods and services necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The law authorized $500,000 based on ADM to Bertie County, Camden County, Chowan County, Perquimans County, Tyrrell County, Washington County for school nutrition services, transportation services, technology, remote instruction materials and services and personal protective equipment.

It also authorized $1.1 million for Communities in Schools of North Carolina, Inc to use for personal protective equipment. It can also be used to help K-12 students with remote instruction, nutrition, family support and mental health issues.

Meanwhile, Mount Airy City Schools is set to receive $115,000 under the law to establish the Smart School Bus Safety Pilot Program.

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