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Lansing Schools COVID Costs

If there is one word to describe the impacts of COVID-19, it is uncertainty.  If two words, the second would have to be expensive.  That was the picture Lansing School Business Administrator Kate Heath painted Monday, when she briefed the Board of Education on the double whammy of increased expenses to the tune of more than a half million dollars in COVID-related expenses, and potentially reduced revenue that may mean more cuts than the $690,000 already made in the 2020-21 budget voters already approved.

State school-reopening mandates require more equipment and personnel expenses not budgeted for before the pandemic hit.  Heath says she has already spent $76,000 just to be able to reopen the school buildings and concurrently pay expenses for technology needed to offer online learning.

"Almost $58,000 of that alone was spent on personal protective equipment masks, both reusable and disposable. (We purchased) little itty bitty mask that are reusable for our smaller students," Heath said. "And then we have some larger ones that are adjustable for both adults and our older students. We've ordered a ton of disposable masks as well. So people who forget their reusable mask on of any given day, sanitizer, thermometers... face shields, which do have to be disposable. Same with gloves."

On top of those personal items the district has spent $11,000 on barriers and sneeze guards, $3,800 on additional cleaning supplies, and $3,700 on technology including webcams and mics needed to conduct virtual classrooms, and replacement chargers for chromebooks (computers).  The District has also ordered signage to tell students and staff about all of the personal protective gear and when they have to wear it, as well as directional signs.

"Each classroom will have a little tote with all the cleaning supplies so that teachers are able to clean their faces more regularly as student come in and out of their rooms," she explained.

Heath also anticipated another $470,000 in COVID-related expenses later in the school year.  The $470K includes $200 in additional staffing for cleaners and bus and hallway monitors; $50,000 for technology replacements and repairs; $100 in additional expenses running HVAC equipment for increased ventilation and air flow; $10,000 for professional development -- teaching teachers to give virtual instruction; $10,000 for a learning management system used for online teaching; and $100,000 for additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other COVID-related items.

That brings the District's COVID expenses up to a whopping total of $546,000.

In the meantime, Heath said a 20% cut in state aid has been announced, which would mean a $157,510 loss for Lansing schools.  The reductions began in June, and are expected to continue through September.  Unless the federal government kicks in funding for schools, the reductions may be permanent.  To add insult to injury, payments amounting to $787,551 from the prior year were deferred until August and September.

Heath said that even with reserves, which must be carefully managed -- because once they are spent that money is gone -- she has to plan for the worst case scenario, which she calculates as a budgeting deficit of $2,395,549.

COVID Impact on Lansing Schools

"To review, I want to reiterate that nothing is final yet regarding state aid," Heath cautioned the Board of Education. "That really was a worst case scenario, but something we need to be aware of and start planning for. Our reserves and fund balance needs to be used minimally. And those are things that are supposed to carry us through the years -- a one time use, and then it's gone. We need to review our expenses and we will continue to monitor, and I will continue to update you on where we are."

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