As school districts consider how and when to get students back to classrooms, they are facing a financial riddle with enormous implications: Every back-to-school plan involves new spending at a time when states and districts are bracing for significant cuts.
The needs are enormous. Students who fell behind this spring during the coronavirus lockdown will require extra help. Counselors will be needed to help children who have lost family or suffered trauma. Nurses will be called on to assure that students and staff members are healthy.
Authorities, meanwhile, are recommending new procedures, some of them costly, designed to stem the spread of germs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends requiring masks for staff members and encouraging them for children. It suggests installing no-touch trash cans, cleaning school surfaces, buses and playground equipment daily; allowing fewer children on buses; and checking student and staff temperatures daily.
“We know that it will cost more to return to school,” said Austin Beutner, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the country. “It will cost more because we need to invest in protective equipment. It will cost more because schools need to not just be cleaned but sanitized. The mental health crisis in the communities will come to the schools when we reopen. We need more nurses and counselors to support students.”