Schools are an important part of the infrastructure of our communities, as they provide a safe and supportive learning environment for students, employ teachers and staff, and enable parents, guardians, and caregivers to work. The CDC states that schools also help to mitigate health disparities by providing critical services including school meal programs and facilitate student’s access to social, physical, behavioral, and mental health services. Many students are either missing or have had interruptions in these services due to school building closures and virtual and hybrid learning.
As our previous blogs and articles have stated, these interruptions in conjunction with the social and emotional impact of the pandemic is leaving our children with unresolved issues and anxiety which leads them to act out and act inappropriately. As schools are set to reopen, administrators and educators will be faced with one of the most challenging years to date. Biden has been steadfast, that his goal is to have the majority of K-8 schools physically reopened five days a week, by the end of his first 100 days in office as the U.S. grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
Since schools and local businesses have been shut down or negatively impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic, financial burdens have forced budgets to be re-allocated and resources once available for our communities and specifically our schools have been eliminated. The CDC states that for schools to operate safely for in-person learning, communities should fully implement and adhere to mitigation strategies to reduce COVID-19 incidence and make decisions that prioritize safely opening schools for in-person learning over nonessential businesses and activities. Additionally, to reduce the risk of transmission in schools, educational facilities should fully implement and strictly adhere to recommended layered mitigation strategies, especially universal and correct masking and physical distancing. With the economic strains and cost to mitigate transmission effectively, what financial tools are there for administrators to reopen while providing a safe learning environment for staff and students?
The day of Biden’s inauguration, he announced his American Rescue Plan which will provide $130B to help K-12 schools reopen safely and support students. This is a very important step for all of us in the school safety and emergency response community, but by no means is it enough. The trickle-down effect from businesses closing, reduced community spending (and fewer taxes being collected as a result) and in addition to a significant rise in pandemic related expenses school have undertaken (PPE, plexiglass, sanitizer, gloves, sprays, testing etc…) which has caused any remaining educational budgets to be squeezed or eliminated.
Thankfully, $13.2B of the CARES Act, was allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund earlier in 2020. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) of 2021 provides an additional $54.3B towards the second round of ESSER funding (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) (See Exhibit 1 for qualifying states).
In addition to the previously mentioned funding sources, there is also the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018 (STOP School Violence Act of 2018) which gave the COPS Office authority to provide awards directly to states, units of local government, or Indian tribes to improve security at schools and on school grounds in the jurisdiction of the grantee through evidence-based school safety program. There are various funding opportunities listed on their website as well: https://bja.ojp.gov/funding/current, several that existing IFT customers have used to help offset the cost of implementing IN FORCE911 district wide. In Force Technology is committed to protecting what matters most, because saving time during an emergency directly correlates to saving lives. We offer grant consultations and support our community partners however we can. Please reach out to discuss funding and partnership options!