WKYT Investigates | Schools face high cost to start new year

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 6:19 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The price to keep kids healthy at school is the highest it’s ever been.

“We’re spending about $50,000 to replace water fountains with water bottle fillers,” Scott Co. Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Hub said. “We’re spending another $40,000 with new no-touch cleaning equipment.”

Dr. Hub says the district has already spent about $25,000 on point and shoot thermometers.

A recent study by the American Associaton of School Administrators says re-opening an average-sized district will cost about $1.8 million extra dollars.

Those are dollars most districts did not factor into their budgets.

Kentucky Department of Education Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney called the national survey aspirational.

“In that survey they talk about ensuring that there is a nurse in every school building, and in Kentucky we just don’t have that,” Kinney said. “It also talked in terms which would be additional costs about monitors for every school bus, and we don’t have that.”

If you take that survey to heart, a large district like Scott County would need about five million extra dollars to safely re-open.

Dr. Hub thinks they can do it for less.

“We don’t see them exeeding the $1.2 million that we’ve had, but none of us know really what to expect,” Dr. Hub said.

The $1.2 million Dr. Hub is talking about is coming from federal funding through the CARES Act and state funding from the governor’s allotment to public school districts.

“There may be additional costs for transportation and for food service as we look at a remote learning for many of our students,” Kinney said. “We really think there could be an impact financially to either extra routes, or maybe a different way of delivering our food or packaging our food or even the types of food we can serve.”

There are proposals in Congress for more education funding, but they are awaiting Senate consideration.

“We know we’re gonna have expenses to clean and disinfect our schools,” Dr. Hub said. “We expect that we’re gonna have expenses to provide the personal protective equipment for our students and our staff. We know we’re gonna have expenses with pupil transportation and school food service.”

District leaders in Scott County tell WKYT that their funding for their new Scott County High School will not be affected by COVID costs. But what about in Woodfod County?

Before the pandemic hit, they were trying to figure out financing for their new high school that they would build across the street from the middle school. Now those plans might be on the back burner.

“I don’t know that it’s on the backburner, it’s on a burner, and I think that’s what we’ll have to really navigate as we go through this year,” Woodford Co. Schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said.

Hawkins says he has a long shopping list, and doesn’t believe CARES Act will cover all of his expenses.

“I don’t believe it’s gonna cover them all, and part of it is that we don’t know what expenditures we may have once the school year starts.”

Hawkins thinks their budget is already going to be a tight one.

Governor Beshear said Kentucky is facing a $1.1 billion budget shortfall in the next fiscal year, if the state doesn’t get more federal help.

Part of that shortfall could land in the classroom.

“That will impact every school district in Kentucky,” Hawkins said. “There is no way with the amount that the legislature already budgets for us, that 1.1 billion dollars wouldn’t impact us in a very significant way.”

Even if schools choose to go virtual for the entire school year, the KDE estimates costs to be hefty in order to equip all students with the technology they need.

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