Reopening of hurdles linger for schools, despite from rescue funding

The latest package of federal coronavirus relief includes $ 81 billion that began flowing this week

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Many parents want to keep their children at home. Teachers backed away from opening programs. And some states say state guidelines on social exclusion prevent them from returning all students at the same time.

This money is a welcome benefit to districts that have had to spend huge sums of money on ventilation systems, laptops and protective equipment. With the end of the academic year approaching fast, however, many are looking forward to making good use of new money next fall.

In some districts that have not yet returned large numbers of students to the classroom, there is no funding available in the near future.

Hillsboro School, one of Oregon's top officials, plans to begin introducing limited classes to other students this month but is unable to bring all students back to full due to guidelines on issues such as social isolation and bus travel, said Beth Graser, a district spokesman.

"There are no people to hire to drive the buses we have, not to mention that we will need a procurement process to get more buses if we are going to upgrade our cars to the point where we can overcome traffic congestion," Graser wrote in an email.

The money released this week is part of the $ 122 billion invested in K-12 schools of the $ 1.9 trillion aid fund. Schools are developing strategies for how they will use the money over the next few years to repair the damage to students' speed of learning and mental well-being.

About half of U.S. primary schools have been open to full-time classes since last month, according to a study by President Joe Biden's administration, which has promised that more K-8 schools will be fully open in his first 100 days of office. While officials say the aid package is a way to help reopen schools, officials in some districts say they will not be able to access the new money for months.

In Ohio's Youngstown City School District, where about 40% of students have returned to part-time classes, CEO Justin Jennings does not expect the new organization's money to change those numbers before the end of the school year.

This is because students have already been given the opportunity to return to study internally, and in part because the district does not even expect to receive the latest funding until at least the summer, Jennings said. It could then go to more security systems, improve air filtering systems in schools and broadband access, and invest in transport to allow for a better community, he said.

About 60 of the 77 major urban districts that make up the High School Council are at least open, said Executive Director Michael Casserly, and most of them already have plans to reopen by mid-April. The new funding will help restore internal learning, he said.

"There is a fair amount of money that will go towards just trying to reopen buildings and make sure everyone is safe," he said. "That will be a one-time expense for school districts that will not create long-term power, but will help open doors."

In Hartford, Connecticut, Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said he hoped the scholarship would help the district bring back more students by increasing efforts to contact families of students who were absent or unemployed. The district has produced about 4 400 visitors this school year but often lacks resources to address the root causes of the problems, he said.

"With more social workers, mental health and wellness support will be more important and urgently needed," he said.

Among the signs of declining academic achievement, the school district in the capital Connecticut is encouraging all students to return to study with people on March 29, including about 9,600 students who have opted for practical education.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week students could safely sit 3 feet, instead of 6 feet, inside classrooms as long as they put on a mask. But officials in some regions say that this will not allow them to increase the number of days students study in person unless the governments of the country take similar directives.

"If the regulation is appropriate, we are happy to be able to do that," said Jeffrey Rabey, headmaster of Depew Public's Buffalo-based schools, where schools operate a hybrid model.

One of the biggest barriers to parental fear is the spread of the virus in schools, said Andre Perry, an official at the Brookings Institution. He said districts should show parents that they are safe, especially in schools that tend to be poorly maintained where toilets often lack soap or working sinks before the epidemic.

In Fairfax County, Virginia, where schools last week completed the transition from completely remote to a combination of distance and personal learning, research shows that many families in a large state district may not want more time in classrooms.

The percentage of parents who say they choose to study online has dropped in recent months, down from 47% this month from 56% in October, according to the district, which said parents should feel ready and safe to send their children back.