As the deadline for using up CARES funding approaches, school districts across the state must weigh their options on how to best allocate those funds.
At a Sept. 28 work session, Jordan School Board members reviewed current expenditures related to COVID-19 and projected how those expenditures may change in the coming fiscal year.
Superintendent Ranae Case Evenson said when the district considers how to allocate both CARES and other additional funds it has received this year, there are three main focus areas: academic, wellness and operational needs.
In addition to the typical costs of preparing for fall, COVID-19 has incurred a few key ongoing expenses. Staffing needs at Jordan Public Schools have shifted with expanded learning models as the year has progressed, as well as the expense of maintenance and cleaning supplies and technology and software to support staff and students.
In addition to known costs, there are a few potential expenses, including additional transportation costs due to the buildings’ 50% capacity, whose financial impact is yet to be determined.
In total, JPS has received $669,769 of additional funding to aid in COVID-19 relief. This includes $486,343 from the CARES Relief Act, as well as $53,175 from the Scott County COVID Relief fund, almost $130,000 from the Department of Education funding and $925 from the HHS CARES Provider Relief Fund.
The district must use all of its CARES money, the largest portion of the funds, by Dec. 30.
“About every two weeks we get an email from the Department of Ed,” Case Evenson said. “They don't mean that we plan to spend it (by Dec. 30). It must be out of our account.”
Scott County funds need to be used up even earlier, by Nov. 30. The other grants provide more flexibility, though Case Evenson said the district still plans to use them this school year.
Outside of Personal Protective Equipment and technology and software for teachers and students, a bulk of the district’s expenses incurred after COVID-19 went toward the creation of Jordan Virtual Academy, the online component of the hybrid learning option. Over the summer, a handful of teachers, normally on nine-month contracts, stayed on to aid in preparing the program; several district nurses also stayed on to help develop protocols for health and safety in the hybrid model.
“We’ve been very fortunate that our teachers have been excellent partners,” Case Evenson said.
Case Evenson said she and Finance Director Amy Hafemann remain optimistic about the district’s budget despite unknown expenses, as projections made this early in the fiscal year often pan out differently than predicted.
“It’s very fluid,” Case Evenson said. “We’re constantly looking at the most efficient ways, with the resources that we have, to provide an amazing educational experience for Jordan.”