Ohio Governor Mike Dewine says he fully intends to see schools in the state reopen this fall, but the responsibility for what that looks like is up to individual districts.
DeWine plans to release guidance from the Ohio Departments of Education and Health later this week, but schools are under pressure to develop comprehensive plans in an evolving situation. Alison Holm reports Columbus City Schools are still weighing options.
Columbus City Schools superintendent Talisa Dixon says the 2020-2021 school year will be full of uncertainties, but one thing is sure – money will be tight.
“We could see a 20% increase in our expenses, coupled with a 20% reduction in our revenues from reduced state funding.”
Dixon says the district has applied for a waiver from the Department of Education to operate online next school year in case the coronavirus re-surges, but is making plans for a mix in-class and online programs. She says the cost of bringing together 50,000 students, even for a few days a week is overwhelming, starting with something as simple as face masks.
“In a district of 50,000 students, considering two masks per day for each student – one in the morning, one in the afternoon – we would need to provide more than 100,000 single-use masks per day, every day that school is in session. This is estimated to cost at least $17 million.”
Providing hand sanitizers in entrances, classrooms and high traffic areas could cost the district $10 million. Increased cleaning supplies could run at least a half a million dollars. And Dixon says technology costs are even more daunting.
“In order to move to 1-1 computer technology – and we will – we’re estimating to need $20 million in upfront cost. We would incur $2 million annually in device maintenance and professional development for staff.”
Dixon says online access has been problematic for families in the last quarter of this school year, and expanding hotspots is one of the big technology costs the district is weighing.
The added expense comes at a tough time for the district, which had hoped to put a request for a permanent 4.7 mil levy on the ballot in November. Dixon says they need to move “quickly and correctly” to have a plan in place by the end of the fiscal year.
A task force led by Internal Auditor Carolyn Smith is already at work, and parents can expect an email and follow up phone call later this week. The superintendent is expected to present their plan for the next school year to the school board by the end of this month.