School District Drops Millions Meeting Reopening Guidelines

Off-brand disinfectant sprays are one of the unexpected additions that CCSd has made in order to reopen to students this fall.
Off-brand disinfectant sprays are one of the unexpected additions that CCSD has made in order to reopen their buildings to students this fall.

Off-brand disinfectant sprays are one of the unexpected additions that CCSD has made in order to reopen to students this fall.

 

In order for Wyoming schools to resume on-site instruction earlier this week, the Campbell County School District (CCSD) was required to meet a series of guidelines outlined in the Smart Start Guidance Packet released by Wyoming Department of Education July 1. Now, after months of planning and coordination, CCSD reported Wednesday the cost of reopening its 23 campuses.

Months of planning weren’t the only thing that the CCSD administration and staff dedicated to their reopening process, Associate Superintendent for Instructional Support Dennis Holmes said. Millions of dollars were spent on new technologies and personal protective equipment, or PPE, for students and staff to be able to return to their respective schools.

Much of the money came from federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Support (CARES) Act grants. Holmes explained that CCSD received their share of CARES funds in three portions.

The first portion granted $4.8 million to the district and was overseen by Governor Mark Gordon. CCSD was directed to use the grant by adding technology to each school until all elementary students have received their own iPad and all secondary students have obtained a Chrome Book.

At this time, Holmes explained, the district continues to order laptops and iPads for students. He estimated that the district would ultimately receive around 4,000 Chrome Books and around 5,000 iPads by the end of their tech ordering process. Each classroom teacher was also given a MacBook Pro and swivel stand to assist in the livestreaming process that will be used to educate off-site students.

Before this school year, Holmes said Campbell County did not see the necessity to provide such technologies to every student in the district. However, in preparation for worsening circumstances, the district has adopted the three-tiered system that was described in the Smart Start packet.

Although CCSD is reopening on a tier-one basis, allowing all students to attend school on site, state-issued public health orders could force the district to move to tier two, in which half of the students would rotationally attend school two to three days a week, or tier three, which would go completely online, should the spread of the virus continue or increase.

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“Usually we wouldn’t have these extra expenses,” Holmes said. “But we want to ensure that students can continue getting an effective education even if we have to shut down the schools.”

Under tiers two and three, students should be equipped with effective learning tools to help them connect with their teachers, peers and lesson plans, Holmes explained. With this, the district implemented a learning management system called Schoology that centralized its curriculum. The platform cost nearly $35,000 ($34,884 in total) to introduce to local schools, Holmes reported.

“Schoology would be utilized if school were to shut down again,” Holmes specified. “The students who are doing asynchronous learning, for whatever reason, will be using a bit of a different process.”

In CCSD’s fiscal budget for 2020-21, the total cost to deliver distance learning was reported to be $248,961.82, a nearly $2,000 decrease from last year’s budget of over $250,000.

CCSD also received an Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (EESER) grant from CARES, which threw another $2.8 million toward the reopening process, however this grant covered the costs of PPE like face coverings, sanitizers, disinfectants and plexiglass screens.

CCSD Purchasing Director Carl Fox reported that the school district has spent $368,910.68 on plexiglass trifolds alone, not including the single pieces of plexiglass used to close off secretary windows.

Fox has run into a series of complications while attempting to order things like face coverings and sanitizers, he said during an interview at the supply warehouse Wednesday. As a result, CCSD has strayed from its typical purchasing trends, which usually consist of name brand items such as Purelle for hand sanitizers or Clorox Wipes for disinfecting wipes.

“It was difficult to track down a lot of the protective gear,” he said. “We had to order a lot of the same item from several different vendors.”

Inside the CCSD supply warehouse, employees continue to unload, reload and deliver PPE to schools, despite their reopening on Monday.
Inside the CCSD supply warehouse, employees continue to unload, reload and deliver PPE to schools, despite their reopening on Monday.

Fox estimated that the total cost of hand sanitizer was somewhere around $36,770, but could have been significantly less since he said he’d explored cheaper options than those added to his final estimate.

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Similar issues occurred on Fox’s hunt for disinfectant sprays which eventually led to some creative problem solving on CCSD’s part, he said.

The district spent just over $15,000 on disinfectants and they still weren’t able to score any Lysol, Fox said estimating the numbers a bit.

“Usually I’d order this kind of thing a year in advance,” Fox said. “But that was pretty impossible this year.”

Along with the traditional cleaning supplies ordered by the district, Fox ordered rubbing alcohol to clean computer screens as well as hydrogen peroxide for safe student usage.

“This way the kids can wipe down their own desks or chairs without having to worry about all the harmful chemicals,” Fox said.

Disposable masks ended up costing CCSD around $40,000 while the district has spent between $20,000 and $30,000 on reusable face coverings for students and staff. The district will continue to purchase the face coverings to meet their goal of providing four for every student and two for every staff member.

The third CARES grant was more specific than the others and is still in use by CCSD, Holmes explained. It provided around $54,000 to the district to help cover the costs of remote learning for students who did not return to school this fall.