K-12 Schools Suffer Financial Pain From Coronavirus

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K-12 Schools Suffer Financial Pain From Coronavirus
Buying masks and hiring more janitors are among costs straining K-12 schools still waiting on promised federal aid to get through the pandemic.
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Schools are struggling to afford plastic shields, hand sanitizer and other things they'll need this year to protect students and teachers.

Districts around the country will spend an average $1.8 million preparing for in-person classes, according to one estimate.

There is also the added cost of technology required for virtual learning.

Congress approved $13 billion in CARES Act funding in March to help K-12 schools pay for pandemic-related costs, but just 7 percent of the aid has flowed down to schools so far, the U.S. Department of Education told Newsy.

States have been slow to release the money while working through complex rules for how it can be spent. 

Alachua County Public Schools is among districts that already need another injection of cash.

It's "extremely important for schools, extremely," said board chairwoman Eileen Roy. "We just don't know what awaits us."

Responding to the virus has forced the Alachua school system to dig dangerously deep into its general fund also used to pay teachers, Roy said.

"We expect a big cut mid-year, too, because state revenues are down," she said.

As the pandemic goes on, school systems may have to make cuts.

"Those aren't local dollars they had in their back pocket sitting around as a line item with no purpose in the budget," said Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director for advocacy and governance at the School Superintendents Association. "To the contrary, school districts have to balance their budgets every year."