Reopen Schools Safely Act helps fund schools this Fall

Bill to help school districts and colleges with funding needed to safely reopen this Fall
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 5:12 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - U.S. Senator Doug Jones has joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues in introducing the Reopen Schools Safely Act. This bill will establish a new federal grant program at the U.S. Department of Education to help school districts and colleges have the funding needed to safely reopen this Fall. It will help schools with funding to keep students and educators safe.

“With school systems and universities across the country and in Alabama announcing their plans to bring back in-person learning this fall, we need to make sure schools can keep students, teachers, and other education staff safe and healthy. School budgets are already being cut due to the economic impacts of the pandemic, leaving schools with complex changes and adjustments to make without much funding to do it. It’s time for Congress to step up to fill the gap so students can safely get back to the classroom and parents can return to work with some peace of mind,” said Sen. Jones.

After a conservative analysis by the School Superintendents Association, an average school district needs up to $1.8 million to reopen safely. This grant money will pay for things like personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies, temperature-screening equipment, certified COVID-19 tests, and more.

“We are moving toward the school year rapidly and we are living in a different world and we know that to open up safely these schools are going to have to take a lot of precautions, make a lot of accommodations and that’s going to cost money and that’s going to cost money that neither the state or these local systems have,” Sen. Jones said.

With the grant funding from the bill, school districts and colleges will have flexibility to use these funds needed to meet CDC, state and local guidelines for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

“This is not going to be a normal school year, there is no question about that, it is not going to be what we’re used to,” Sen. Jones said. “We just to have make sure that we make the most of it and do it in its healthy way as possible.”

The program is intended to be temporary and includes a Sunset Provision for 2023. Senator Jones understands Alabama is a fight right now with COVID-19.

“Obviously, right now in Alabama I am very concerned as to where we are on this virus,” Sen. Jones said. “People are not social distancing, people are not wearing masks and they should be, but we still have a ways to go to kind of flatten that curve and make other corrections so I think if people act responsibly, and I think that’s the key is personal responsibility, that we can get folks back in school.”

Sen. Jones says they need to keep the economy slowly opening up and that’s going to require schools. He says it will take an extra effort and a lot more money but he believes it can be done with the help of this bill.

Governors will be able to apply for the funding and from there they will have the flexibility to determine the distribution of funds to local school districts, colleges, and universities based on the needs of their state.

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