Savannah-Chatham schools’ budget helped by federal relief bills

Savannah-Chatham schools' budget helped by federal relief bills

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The cost of COVID-19 has been large, especially for schools.

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School Board got a look at the budget on Wednesday and how federal funding will impact their future.

The pandemic undoubtedly added costs to so many areas. Within the school district, it was for PPE, cleaning supplies, staff, and so much more.

“We’re alright right now thanks to the CARES Act. The CARES Act 1, 2 and the American Recovery Act. We are [thankful] for that or I would be very concerned, we’re going to be OK,” SCCPSS Budget Director Paige Cooley said.

Cooley says they received $10.9 million from the first round of funding, which will mostly be used by the end of this year. The second set of CARES Act funding totaled more than $44 million and has a deadline to be used by 2023.

Leaders say the priorities for this money is different than before.

“As the CARES Act has evolved, our direction is changing. Obviously at first it was more masks, sanitizers, computers, Wi-Fi now that we are coming back to school, it’s more on staff, smaller classes, remediation, summer school, tutoring, after school to pay staff, extra custodians to keep things tip top clean,” Cooley said.

Embrace Learning, the district’s summer learning program, will be funded by the CARES Act and cost about $8.5 million. Leaders in the district did emphasize to the board that these funds while critical work more as a grant, meaning they must pay up front and then be reimbursed which will take strategic planning moving forward.

“I am thankful for the federal government, especially for the recovery portion, trying to help us out, but it’s very important to understand that this is not going to continue to take us down the road a long way so our investment must be very carefully done,” SCCPSS Board President Dr. Joe Buck said.

Leaders say they have not gotten an official amount for the American Rescue Plan, though it is estimated at $99 million which must be spent within specific parameters by 2024.

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