The first freshmen returned to Hanford and Richland high schools on Feb. 17 and over the next week upperclassmen will return to in-person learning, meaning all RSD schools will again have students in classrooms for the first time in nearly a year. It has been a long journey to bring students back safely and the hard work of school and district staff made it possible while also ensuring students were supported while learning at home.
This effort also required the district and schools to purchase materials and services in unique and different ways to serve students and support you in a new learning format. All told the district has invested $1.7 million in reopening schools, supporting students remotely and keeping staff safe. We want to show you how we got here and what lays ahead.
Building Safety — $840,000
This is the largest additional cost the district has faced as a result of COVID-19. Much of this—$319,000—has been for personal protective equipment, or PPE, for staff. That includes face masks (disposable and reusable), plastic face shields, gloves, and more extensive materials needed by those working in more at-risk conditions such as rooms for students who show COVID-like symptoms or those working in specific special education programs.
Additional building safety costs include:
- Implementation of health attestation system for students and staff ($35,000)
- Upgrades to the HVAC filters in all district facilities ($42,000)
- Supplies for more extensive cleaning and disinfecting in all learning spaces ($321,000)
- Additional resources to support frequent handwashing and sanitation ($40,000)
Lastly, at the suggestion of school staff, the district brought in health and safety consultants from NV5/Dade Moeller to conduct walkthroughs of schools prior to each reopening to ensure procedures and materials were in place before students returned.
Instructional Materials & Support — $890,000
Our schools have never had to support every student in a fully remote learning model. While we were better positioned than others around the state thanks to our community’s support of our 1:1 Technology Initiative, more resources were needed to support all students learning at home.
Where before students could use collective materials and supplies in their classroom, now students needed to have individual supplies. Roughly $476,000 was spent on providing everything from markers and crayons for the youngest learners to additional textbooks, trade books and leveled texts. The district made a commitment to ensure all students had the supplies and equipment necessary to fully engage in at-home learning.
Remote learning was just as new to most instructional staff as to students. The district spent $44,700 to provide training and other resources such supplemental curricula to teachers to help them transition to remote teaching and engage students
Last but not least, technology was absolutely critical and included more than just ensuring every student had a digital device. Roughly $357,000 has gone toward:
- Mobile hotspots for students without reliable Internet access
- Additional devices so our youngest learners could use them at home
- New audio-visual equipment to better help teachers work simultaneously with students learning remotely and in-person
The Bottom Line
So far the federal government has provided $1.5 million to the district in emergency funding to cushion the blow from increased expenses from COVID-19. That is less than the district’s costs to date of $1.7 million. These costs will continue to grow through the remainder of the 2020-21 school year and district leaders expect these expenses to be ongoing for at least the next one or two school years.
At the same time, district enrollment has declined by roughly 400 students, which will cut state funding for RSD schools by an estimated $4.5 million per year.
District staff are building budget projections for the 2021-22 school year that will lay out a plan to ensure our schools continue to educate every student for success. Stay tuned for details and how to give your input. The district remains committed to providing a safe environment where staff and students can engage, learn and be successful.