Oakland County will allocate $28 million from its federal CARES Act funding to help county public and charter schools recover some of the unexpected costs they incurred preparing for in-school or remote student learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, County Executive David Coulter said Aug. 27.
The funds, which the Oakland County Board of Commissioners is expected to approve at its Sept. 3 meeting, will help school budgets that have been severely impacted with unanticipated expenditures directly related to the coronavirus and preparing for the school year to keep students, teachers and staff safe. Coulter announced the proposed funding during a news conference at Novi Middle School.
“Oakland County has been supporting all stakeholders during the pandemic – small businesses, non-profit organizations, our cities, villages and townships – and with the school year starting, it is crucial we do all we can to help our schools provide a safe environment in-school or virtually, and ensure districts get the support they need,” Coulter said. “We want parents and students to have confidence their school experience will be safe.”
Coulter was joined at the news conference by County Commissioner Gwen Markham of Novi, Dr. Steve Matthews, Novi Community School District superintendent; Dr. Amy Kruppe, Hazel Park Schools superintendent; Dr. Paul Salah, Huron Valley Schools superintendent; and Dr. Jamii Hitchcock, Oak Park Schools superintendent.
“I’m proud the Board of Commissioners is standing up to support our schools in this unprecedented time,” Markham said. “With budgets being stretched due to this unforeseen pandemic, it is a priority to ensure our schools are safe and they have the resources they need to provide a positive learning environment, whether it is virtual or in the classroom.”
Under the plan, the county’s 28 school districts and charter schools in the county can apply to recover unreimbursed expenses or anticipated expenses through Dec. 31. Funds will be awarded based in part on need and the number of students, teachers and number of students who receive free or reduced-price lunches. Districts and charter schools must submit verifiable receipts for reimbursement.
Awards will be capped, but the amount won’t be known until the requests are submitted.
A wide range of expenses are eligible and include costs such as: plexiglass, personal protection equipment, creation of safety protocols, no-touch thermometers, disinfectant, signage, costs to retrofit a classroom and remote technology.
With today’s allocation, the county has given $30 million in federal CARES Act funding to provide COVID-19 related assistance to Oakland County schools. In June, the Oakland County Health Division and Oakland Schools began collaborating on a $2 million COVID-19 school nurse initiative to give students, parents, school faculty and staff confidence they will be safe when school resumes.
The Oakland Together School Nurse Initiative, which has hired 63 nurses to work through December, is assisting schools with public health strategies and direction to prevent the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. School nurses are providing communication, training, consultation and recommendations to school districts.
The program has three components, which include communication, training, consultation and recommendations. Nurses are meeting with individual districts to update them on COVID-19 activity in the community, provide prevention strategies for high-risk children and connect parents to additional resources as needed.
Student instruction includes social distancing strategies, hand washing, health screening and planning for what may come next in the pandemic. Other focus areas include:
- Assist school districts in creating and implementing health screening protocols
- Assist schools to identify and create sick/isolation rooms
- Create educational messages on the importance of prevention and staying home when sick
- Provide access to COVID-19 resources for students, parents, teachers and staff