But school funding picture appears grim

School District 191 is eligible for more than $4 million in COVID-19 relief funds, but pandemic-related worries about state funding for education are expected to persist through the 2022-23 fiscal year.

The relief funding is through the $2.2 trillion CARES Act Congress approved in March. The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage district is already approved for $2.73 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund for state and local governments.

The district is applying for another $1.84 million through two CARES Act education funds. The district has also sought CARES grants from Dakota and Scott counties.

The state is projected to face a pandemic-induced deficit of at least $2.4 billion. In an Oct. 8 report to the School Board, Business Services Director Lisa Rider said she’s assuming no increase in state funding for schools in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

Even full funding for the current year may not be safe.

“There is concern that possibly some of our funding formulas might be adjusted down,” Rider told the board. “We haven’t heard that for certain yet.”

According to the report, costs to be covered by the $2.73 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds include cleaning supplies, screening and personal protective equipment; increased transportation costs due to social distancing; technology devices and connectivity costs; training; tutors; mentors; and school-age child care.

Costs incurred from July through Dec. 30 of this year are eligible.

They include $546,048 for wages and salaries, $163,402 for employee benefits, $289,822 for contracted services and substitute teachers, $192,408 for equipment and ventilation, $765,022 for supplies and $772,963 for technology.

The ventilation funds are for needlepoint bipolar ionization air filtration systems at all district buildings to reduce virus spores and bacteria, Rider said.

“They’re hard at it,” she said of the ongoing projects. The existing HVAC systems had met requirements, but the district sought a consultant’s opinion on an extra layer of protection, Rider said.

Funds are also being used to make plastic screening barriers in schools’ main offices and health offices more permanent, she said.

The district has applied for $1.54 million in CARES Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding. Eligible uses include health training, PPE and sanitizing supplies, mental health, educational technology, summer learning, supplemental after-school programming, keeping existing staff employed and continuity of services.

A total of $339,020 is slated for spending this fiscal year, with the rest over the next two.

The district is seeking another $296,665 in CARES Governor’s Emergency Education Relief. Eligible uses include technology hardware and connectivity and summer school programming. Funds are slated to be spent in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

The funds will help pay for $420,000 worth of Chromebooks received this summer to provide each elementary student with a device, according to the report. Before the pandemic, the ratio had been one device for every two students.

The district is asking Dakota County for $585,650 of its CARES funding for child-care costs from March through November and $35,280 for technology connectivity costs from April through November.

Dakota County school districts have asked the county for $8.33 million in CARES funding, the report said.

The district has already secured $51,095 from Scott County for technology to support distance learning, child care and food expenses from March 1 through Nov. 30. The allocation was based on the number of Scott County students in the district.

Dakota Electric has given the district $25,000 to bring internet connectivity to 100 families this school year, the report said. The utility donated another $2,500 for the district’s costs of delivering meals to families.

“We really appreciate their generosity,” Rider said.

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