Last week, the state issued guidelines on how schools might reopen in the fall amid the national coronavirus pandemic. The recommendations left decisions on whether to resume in-person schooling, and safety and cleaning protocols, up to the local school districts, and it included suggestions for daily screenings for symptoms of COVID-19, face coverings for students and staff, and cleaning and sanitizing procedures.
NH Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut and Governor Sununu have said that districts could apply for federal CARES Act funding to offset the costs of their transition to remote learning in March, and other expenses associated with physical reopening this fall, including PPE like face coverings and sanitation equipment, additional substitute teachers, and extra staff to support social distancing rules.
According to an analysis by Reaching Higher NH, districts would receive an estimated average of $213 per student in federal CARES Act funding. The analysis found:
- Allocations range between $6.66 per student to $1,279.43 per student;
- The average allocation per student is $212.96;
- 105 of 191 districts and charter schools have been allocated less than $200 per student (excluding those that would not receive any federal funding);
- 47 of 191 districts and charter schools have been allocated between $200 and $400 per student;
- 21 of 191 districts and charter schools have been allocated between $400 and $600 per student;
- 7 of 191 districts and charter schools have been allocated more than $600 per student; and,
- 11 of 191 districts and charter schools did not have any information listed for CARES Act funding.
Districts and charter schools must apply for the federal funding through the NH Department of Education. According to Commissioner Edelblut, about 35 districts have applied as of July 15.
The district allocations are determined by the federal government, and are largely dependent on the number or proportion of students navigating poverty that attend a district’s public school. The CARES Act funding, however, can be used for all students in the district.
The NH Department of Education may also allocate an additional $3.8 million for emergency needs as determined by the NH Department of Education to address issues responding to COVID-19. These emergency needs may be addressed through the use of grants or contracts.
The Cost of School Reopening
The Association of School Business Officers International and AASA, the School Superintendents Association, identified some of the additional expenses that districts may incur in order to open safely, including:
- Adhering to health monitoring and screening protocols: hand sanitizers for students, disinfecting wipes, no-touch thermometers, deep cleaning of schools;
- Hiring staff to implement health and safety protocols: additional custodial staff for increased cleaning/disinfecting of schools and buses to prevent spread, ensuring at least one FT/PT nurse in every public school, ensuring one aide per bus to screen student temperatures before boarding;
- Providing PPE: Gloves for custodial staff, daily disposable masks for in-school staff, disposable masks for students who do not bring masks from home; and
- Providing transportation and child care: Resume before/after school programs for students, cleaning supplies for buses, hand sanitizer for buses.
The NH Department of Education was awarded $37 million in coronavirus-related federal relief for the state’s K-12 schools as part of the CARES Act passed by Congress in April 2020. Announced in May, the federal aid was intended to be used to cover costs that began in March, as districts transitioned to remote learning. These costs included supporting the expansion of neighborhood and charter schools’ remote learning capacity, including access, devices, applications, and training for students, families and educators.
The Governor has also encouraged districts to use CARES Act funds to offset the costs associated with the precautions recommended for resuming in-person learning or hybrid models in the upcoming school year.
Guidance from the NH Department of Education
The guidelines recommended, but did not require, daily screenings for symptoms of COVID-19, a minimum of 3 feet of space between students in classrooms, and the use of face coverings during the school day. The guidelines also recommended that districts create plans for in-person, hybrid, and remote learning, and should be prepared to transition quickly between the models.
The NH Department of Education’s guidance document acknowledged that districts will likely need more staff: more substitute teachers, more bus drivers, and more school staff to assist in delivering remote learning instruction, enforce social distancing rules, and more.
Commissioner Edelblut stated that the guidelines were written by the NH Department of Education staff, and were guided by the state’s School Transition Reopening and Redesign Taskforce (STRRT) task force. The final recommendation document was reviewed by the NH Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Commissioner. The task force was facilitated by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), which has a decades-long relationship with New Hampshire’s education department.
He also said that the guidelines were informed by a statewide survey, which roughly 56,000 members of the New Hampshire public took in June. The NH Department of Education has released results of the closed-ended questions, but has not released the responses to any of the open-ended questions at the time of publication.
This analysis used the CARES Act, Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) Grant 2019-2020 School Year spreadsheet published by the NH Department of Education on May 11, 2020 to determine the district-level allocations.
The allocations were compared to the 2019-2020 Enrollment, As of October 1, 2019, published by the New Hampshire Department of Education. The enrollment figures used in this analysis did not include preschool.
Charter schools were included in this document. Figures did not include the students or staff that would fall under the “equitable services” category of the ESEA.
Reaching Higher NH also compared the allocations to district Average Daily Membership (ADM-A), which reflected 180 districts and charter schools. Using those figures, the average allocation per student was $212.83. For more information, contact email@example.com