Wednesday, July 15, 2020

School district receives nearly $1 million for COVID assistance

Upgrade in technology and UV-Lytbots

By Mark Reaman

The Gunnison Watershed School District received word from the state last week that it will get nearly $1 million in federal relief funds to help deal with coronavirus impacts. Re1J school superintendent Leslie Nichols said the announcement was great news for the district. “This takes a bit of pressure off our budget as we work to find ways to mitigate for the $3.3 billion revenue loss at the state level, which is having tremendous negative impacts on prekindergarten through grade 12 education,” said Nichols.

She explained that Governor Jared Polis dedicated $510 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CARES Act) to preK-12 public education across the state. These funds are part of the governor’s efforts to provide economic support in connection with the COVID-19 public health emergency by supporting Colorado’s workforce with school-aged children. He also is releasing $450 million to higher education, among other funding initiatives.

“Gunnison Watershed received our share of the allocation in the amount of $973,713,” said Nichols. “We are incredibly grateful to the governor’s office and the tremendous efforts of the Colorado Department of Education to disburse these funds so quickly.”

The money was received by the district last week, on May 20.

Nichols explained that the funds do have restrictions. They cannot be used to offset revenue shortfalls in district budgeting for fiscal year 2021, which for Gunnison Watershed will be between $1.5 million and $3.3 million. Those figures represent a loss of 7 to 20 percent in total program funding from the School Finance Act.

The funds can be spent on direct costs associated with the COVID-19 crisis, and the district is considering the following expenses for these funds:

—$450,000 on the “1 to 1 Technology launch” in the fall of 2020;

—$250,000 for UV Lytbots for disinfection purposes within the school district buildings;

—$100,000 on HVAC improvements within school buildings;

—$55,000 for restroom and nursing station remodels at the Crested Butte Community School and Lake School;

—$50,000 on a remote learning curriculum and professional development;

—$35,000 for additional tutoring;

—$30,000 on expected increased substitute teaching coverage; and

—$10,000 on Wifi hot spots and improved internet access.

Those costs of the proposed projects are approximate and add up to about $980,000.

Nichols said the “1 to 1 technology launch this fall is in response to the coronavirus crisis and puts us well ahead of our schedule to gradually implement a 1 to 1 technology model over the next four years. Every student will be issued their own device this fall, primarily Chromebooks,” she explained.

Nichols continued, “We will utilize our existing device inventory and supplement with purchasing through these emergency relief funds. Eliminating the sharing of devices is an important piece of our strategy to return to school safely in the fall.”

She also explained that purchasing four UV-Lytbots will allow the district to adequately keep schools at all four district campuses property disinfected from the coronavirus. The district is partnering closely with Gunnison Valley Health in adopting more advanced, efficient and effective disinfecting practices. Other disinfecting and cleaning equipment being considered includes electrostatic sprayers and improved mops.

“Returning to school is essential for our local economy and also incredibly challenging to do safely,” Nichols concluded. “Our list of needs far exceeds what these Coronavirus Relief Funds can cover, and we are looking at devastating budget shortfalls not only this year but for the next three to four years. That said, these funds are incredibly important and allow us to cover critical coronavirus crisis costs and to be even more strategic about spending into our reserves.”

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