With a mid-August start for its 2020-21 school term looming, Fayette County Schools personnel are preparing for a safe educational path forward in the Covid-19 era.
The Fayette County Board of Education recently sought bids for readying schools and equipment to deal with situations related to Covid-19.
According to Tim Payton, director of operations, one set of bids was geared toward obtaining personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfecting equipment, supplies and cleaning equipment. The supplies sought include powered disinfectant equipment such as sprayers/foggers/misters, nitrile gloves, single-use disposable masks, KN95 masks, hand sanitizer, face shields, disinfectant, no-touch thermometers and disinfecting wipes.
Bids were accepted until Monday, June 22.
Ahead of the deadline, Payton said his office had already received several responses — from both local vendors and out-of-county vendors.
"We know we're going to be spending lots of money on PPE, disinfectant (and other areas)," said Payton. "We're not sure exactly what we are going to need.
"We know we're going to have to ramp up and buy more (supplies)."
That includes more common materials that may have already been in the system's supply chain. But it also features items such as face shields.
"We don't keep a lot of face shields around," said Payton.
The pending purchases will be made possible by the CARES (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security) Act, which provides federal stimulus dollars to assist state agencies, local school districts, businesses, organizations, families and students and other entities during the pandemic. According to the West Virginia Department of Education website, the preliminary allocation for Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Funding (ESSERF) as of May 7 included $2,300,033 for Fayette.
Payton said his department will have allotments of $300,000 and $200,000 to utilize for its particular mission.
Student enrollment for Fayette County in official figures reported in October 2019 was 6,048 (5,773 public and 275 private). The share of ESSER funds breaks down as follows: public ($2,195,452) and private ($104,582).
The West Virginia Department of Education is providing guidance for school systems. On its website, the department outlines possible re-entry scenarios. They include: in-person or blended instruction, in which all students will be engaged in learning five days a week but student mobility at schools may be minimized by having them attend a limited number of days; and full remote delivery, which will be necessary if an outbreak occurs and an executive stay-at-home order is issued by Gov. Jim Justice.
Incoming Fayette County Superintendent Gary Hough said protocol for the coming school term is still being developed. Communications continue with local school administrators, and a survey involving options was expected to be available to parents this week. In recent weeks, officials have examined some preferable options for local re-entry.
Uncertainty remains, however.
"We don't know what's going to happen in the next month or month-and-a-half," he said.
When the time comes for decisions, the approach will center on creating a safe environment for students and staff, providing a quality education, and being good citizens of the community and state, Hough said.
Treasurer and Chief School Business Official Paula Fridley said the plan is "still a work in progress."
The funding isn't in hand yet, she said, but the school system is allowed to submit proposals. In addition to securing personal protective equipment, disinfecting equipment and other supplies, some of the funds are targeted to buy technology such as Schoology, a social networking service and virtual learning environment for K-12 schools and higher education institutions, Fridley said. Another portion of the money will be utilized for the summer feeding program, she added.
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