A lot of time and money has been spent over these few months in order to get Connecticut schools ready to reopen. It has been tedious and costly for both families and school districts.
NBC Connecticut Investigates examined the costs of reimagining and renovating school spaces, based on financial information obtained through public records requests.
Within Windsor Locks Public Schools, for example, Superintendent Shawn Parkhurst was tasked with figuring out what to buy and where to buy it to get the district’s four schools and nearly 1,600 students ready return to the classroom.
“Everything from masks to enhanced PPE for people that needed that or required that,” Parkhurst said. “We also added plexiglass, polycarbonate material, at the front of each classroom to give yet another safety security between our student and our staff.”
In Windsor Locks, nearly $20,000 was spent on masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, according to the district. Close to $150,000 was spent on building accommodations, such as new signage and plexiglass desk dividers and shields. Approximately $232,000 was used to purchase new technology – cameras, microphones, sound systems – to help with remote learning. The total leading up to the start of the school year was more than $401,000, to be able to have the option of reopening schools in Windsor Locks.
“One of the underlying principles that I always had when I was looking at any purchases was ‘what will we be able to utilize post-COVID?,’” said Parkhurst, who also added that new desks and the new technology can and will be used after the pandemic.
To pay for all of this, the district said it used grant funding, received state financial help and obtained federal dollars through the CARES Act.
“We were able to do all of these renovations with little to no impact on our operating budget or our taxpayers,” Parkhurst said.
In the Consolidated School District of New Britain, there were similar COVID-related purchases totaling approximately $529,000. Another $403,000 was spent on mobile hotspots, Chromebooks and other technology. To prepare for this school year in New Britain, more than $930,000 was spent, according to school district financial documents.
Typically, school budgets are finalized in the spring for the next school year - but not in 2020.
“It’s just going to be an ongoing unknown – until we know more,” said Karen Clancy, director of finance & management for Manchester Public Schools. “We really hit the ground running. There was literally thousands of hours that were put into planning for the reopening,” said Clancy.
The district purchased everything from tents for outdoor learning to air purifiers, disinfectant sprays, microfiber wipes and much more. It cost over $1 million and the district is preparing for additional spending.
“Right now, we’re in a good place,” said Clancy. “So, pretty much on a daily basis, we look at where we are in expenditures.”
Across the sixteen Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) schools, between PPE, classroom and cleaning supplies, building upgrades and new products to help with distance learning, approximately $2.9 million was spent; and that was only up through mid-August.
Most districts acknowledged that additional purchases have been made and will continue to be made as the school year continues and the need to replenish inventories arises.