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Covid will cost Long Beach schools nearly $4 million

District’s emergency fund helps ease the burden

Posted

The Long Beach School District is projecting $3.7 million in coronavirus-related expenses, including personal protective equipment and extra staffing to deal with new schedules and protocols this school year.

At a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night, Michael DeVito, the district’s assistant superintendent of finance and operations, presented the costs associated with keeping schools open during the pandemic. “The cost involved in these additional precautions is an unfunded mandate that required emergency expenditures outside of our approved budget,” DeVito said.

He explained that the district had to hire 23.1 full-time teachers, or equivalent, at a cost of about $2.3 million, to help with the district’s virtual instruction program. By hiring these teachers, he said, the district would not have to hire substitutes in certain schools, though he did not specify which ones.

At a cost of more than $1.2 million, the district also hired 43 teaching assistants and aides to help in classrooms, hallways and nurse’s offices and monitor restrooms.

DeVito said that most of the new auxiliary staff are part-time, and their ranks would be reduced if the district had to return to remote learning.

He added that the projected $1.2 million costs would be for the entire school year. “If we do have to go virtual,” he said, “some of these costs would be reduced.”

District officials anticipate spending just over $733,000 on personal protective equipment, cleaning materials, and teaching supplies, and more than $130,000 on Chromebooks for students.

But DeVito pointed out thatthere are revenue sources that will help offset these costs. The district will submit an application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement of just over $130,000, a CARES Act grant will cover more than $404,000, and a Smart School bond will cover the cost of iPads for kindergarten through second-grade students. As a result, the district projects that the cost to its general fund will be $169,322 for supplies and materials.

DeVito said the district had $13 million in its unassigned fund balance — its emergency fund — and that it had saved $5 million because the schools were closed in March. After covering the pandemic expenditures, the district projects that it will end the year with more than $9.2 million in its emergency fund.

Board of Education Trustee Dr. Dennis Ryan praised DeVito’s presentation and the use of the emergency fund to cover unexpected costs.

“Oftentimes people question why we do keep an unassigned fund balance . . . Whether it was [Hurricane] Sandy or the collapsing of the high school roof, or just Covid,” Ryan said, “it’s another validation for why school districts need a fund balance to deal with emergencies that come up.”

Ryan asked DeVito if the district could consolidate any other extra costs, including staff and other projects, to help bring down expenditures as the pandemic continues. DeVito said the district had discussed possible ways to reduce its expenses, but would take another look in the hope of further reducing the projected $3.7 million impact.