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Preston Schools discuss COVID expenses

KINGWOOD — Preston County Schools’ budget is holding up to the expenses of COVID-19 — so far.

That’s thanks in large part to money flowing from Washington. Preston County Schools received federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding in the amount of $1,078,383.06. They were not able to request a certain amount.

“The CARES Act funding was assigned to us. We didn’t get to request it,” Preston School Superintendent Steve Wotring said.

As of Aug. 12, the county has spent $414,280.95 for Apple devices and software. The money went to buy iPads for all students in pre-K through second grade.

Another $47,960.60 was spent on personal protective equipment (PPE) and $2,215.72 for stipends.

Altogether$66,451.86 has been spent on PPE so far, “and that doesn’t include we ordered Plexiglas dividers for all our secretaries’ desks,” the superintendent said. “And we just ordered $32,000 basically of water bottle refill stations.”

The touch free water dispensers use censors and will eliminate water fountains.

Also not included in the total is PPE and other materials being bought through special education funding.

Another $25,439.72 is encumbered for computer software and hardware already ordered, leaving a balance of $537,309.70. The computer hardware and software will help with virtual schooling and remote learning, Wotring said.

“The longer it goes on, obviously we’re going to run through these funds rather quickly and we don’t know if another round of funding is going to come or not,” Wotring said. “But I think right now we’re okay, and I think if we wouldn’t have adjusted what we’re going to do with our virtual school and I would have had to pay $1 million [for the state program] then we would be in the hole, because I only have $500,000 left.”

Reimbursement for student meals is through the USDA, not CARES. “Our feeding expenses so far from March on are in excess of $700,000,” Wotring said.

The county expects to get about $660,000 of that back from the USDA.

“This doesn’t even take into account the personnel costs we had, during that time, any of that,” Wotring noted. “And none of those are reimbursed.”

Those personnel costs include extra time spent by staff preparing, packaging and delivering meals.

Typically the county’s only summer feeding program would have been at the Energy Express site in Kingwood. In contrast, this year thousands of meals have been delivered all summer.

The county has also purchased a student learning platform called iReady for about $150,000 that will assess students’ abilities in reading, language arts and math, then design an individualized program to bring them up to speed.

“Hopefully with these learning programs that’s really going to help us,” Wotring said.

It will be two years before the impact of not busing students to school for three months are felt on the budget. That’s because state reimbursement for transportation is based on miles and expenses two years previous.

“Nobody’s really told us about that yet, what that means,” Wotring said.

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