AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Education estimates it will cost around $327 million in order to reopen K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin, the cost includes things like personal protective equipment (PPE) and more buses to spread students out on the ride to school.
It also includes the cost for substitute teachers, as she says up to 20% of teachers are estimated not to return to the school immediately in the fall.
While the department is making estimates based upon some fixed costs, there are still many unknown variables.
Makin says, "The components within that total are in some cases based on actual numbers we know, for example, the average cost of a substitute for the various roles in schools, and in other situations, those costs are based on as much information we have right now."
"The variables that are still unknowable include the impact of the virus on our state in the fall," Makin said. "Also, the public health metrics that will be used to determine the level of safeguards necessary."
A third unknown is what guidelines will be put out by the Federal Department of Education. Makin says those guidelines have been frequently changing over the past months.
Makin says figuring out what it will take to get kids back in the classroom during a pandemic has been no small task.
"It has been very challenging. I think our schools have been facing the most stark and daunting challenges they have faced ever before. I think public schools are being recognized as critical partners in the reinvigoration of our economy and our future health and certainly the perpetuation of a thriving democracy. So I think it's very important that we invest in our schools, frankly, as if our entire economy depended on it."
Maine has received $1.25 billion in federal funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Governor Janet Mills says she'll be taking input from the legislature before deciding where that money goes.
Making says, "We're going to work very hard to make sure that we're making estimates that make sense, that are fair with respect to all of the other needs in the state and that are respectful to all the other competing needs that we have. But that would also reasonably support our schools in terms of the return to in-person instruction for all students."
At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus
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