School Districts Share Concerns over Technology, Transportation for the Fall
Local school administrators shared concerns about distance learning in a House joint informational hearing on Tuesday. Robbinsdale school board chair David Boone and Excell Academy executive director Sabrina Williams echoed concerns from educators around the state about transportation, technology, and personal protective equipment, all of which come with a hefty price tag for districts.
The joint meeting was third in a series of informational session where lawmakers heard from a variety of stakeholders, from students and parents to school nutrition workers and principals about distance learning for the upcoming school year.
Robbinsdale School board chair David Boone highlighted three areas of funding concerns with returning to school.
“In light of COVID-19, wWe anticipate many students will return to school with additional needs and as a result, we will have greater special education expenses,” said Boone, referencing a growing need for more special education funding that existed prior to the pandemic.
Special education funding has been a growing line item for districts, as we explained in this story. Boone says an example of the increases costs will include more staff to complete evaluations and develop IEPs, or individualized education programs, for students.
Another concern mentioned would be increased costs for personal protective equipment, or PPE. This could include masks, face shields, sanitizer, wipes, and more.
Transportation, Technology are Big Concerns
Depending on the back to school model, Boone also stressed that the Robbinsdale district may have to increase bus routes by at least 50 percent in order to comply with social distancing guidelines.
“That would equate to a minimum of 5.6 million dollar increase in costs in our transportation costs alone,” said Boone.
Excell Academy executive director Sabrina Williams echoed the possibly high costs in regards to busing. The Brooklyn Park charter school serves more than 450 pre-K through eighth graders and Williams spoke on behalf of the state’s charter schools.
“How will schools be able to transport students to school safely and at the lowest risk? Some of our buses have 50-60 students on a bus, three to a seat and 10-15 students at one bus stop,” explained Williams. “This is one I’m very passionate about and this is one of the biggest challenges that charter schools like Excell Academy will face.”
Williams said she believes transportation could be the determining factor in whether schools can return to classes in person.
Technology was also a theme mentioned by many, and is a challenge for charter schools as well.
“Many families in urban and rural areas have had challenges accessing technology and/or reliable internet access,” said Williams. “It’s too expensive for some families to access it and some in rural areas cannot gain the access.”
You can watch the full informational session here.