By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – Because village officials don’t expect to use their entire Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocation, the remaining funds could be donated to the Howard-Suamico School District.
The Howard village board voted unanimously Monday, Sept. 14, to direct staff to work with the school district and the State of Wisconsin to donate items to the district to be reimbursed by the state with CARES Act money.
Village Administrator Paul Evert said Howard is eligible for $319,948 in reimbursable expenses, and prior to the board meeting, submitted $77,248 for reimbursement.
“We don’t project using anywhere close to $319,000 allocated to the village,” he said. “We can’t spend it, unless it’s a qualifying eligible expense.”
Evert said he brought the matter up with state lawmakers at an informational meeting the district hosted Aug. 17.
Sen. Rob Cowles suggested working with the state to make funds allocated to the village available to the school district, which will have expenses exceeding its allocation of $296,000.
Cowles said he contacted the Wisconsin Department of Administration, which manages the reimbursement program known as Routes to Recovery, and was informed the DOA would allow reimbursement for expenses incurred by municipalities to purchase supplies related to COVID-19 and donate them to the local school district.
In addition to reimbursing costs related to preventing the spread of COVID-19, Cowles said the DOA also informed him the Routes to Recovery funding may be used to buy internet supplies because of schools using online instruction during the pandemic.
In an email sent last month to Cowles from Dawn Vick of the DOA, she informed him a municipality may “purchase laptops, etc. for distance learning and telework for the schools.”
Cowles said allowing municipalities to donate those items is a “godsend for schools.”
Mark Smith, deputy superintendent with HSSD, appeared before the board to provide information on items the district could use to contain COVID-19.
Smith said HSSD’s elementary schools opened 2020-21 with in-person classes five days a week, while the intermediate, middle and high schools have a combination of in-person and distance learning.
“With that comes additional costs to make sure that we’re adhering to social distancing guidelines, and we’re also making sure that we provide multiple modes of learning for our students to accommodate their needs,” he said.
HSSD is also offering a totally online learning option this school year for students and families uncomfortable returning to the classroom.
Smith said one opportunity for the village to partner with the district is with iPads for teachers at Bay Port High School to use as an instructional delivery mechanism for students in grades 9-12.
According to information the district provided to the village, the cost of 100 iPad seventh generation devices would be $29,400, plus $1,950 for protective cases and $2,700 for licensing lasting three years.
Smith said the district is also looking at creating Wi-Fi access outside school buildings at a cost $122,941 for all schools.
He said the district’s top priority is health and safety.
District facility costs of $186,950 Smith presented include Plexiglas windows, cleaning wipes, electrostatic sprayers, hand sanitizer, face coverings, cafeteria tables and changing filters.
Evert said the final reimbursement deadline for the allocations of the CARES Act is Oct. 31.
“We’ve got come up with something from now until Oct. 31,” he said.
Evert said the village has around 50 full-time employees, compared to around some 1,200 employees and 6,000 students at HSSD.
“Their challenges in multiple buildings to protect the students and the faculty is so much greater than ours, yet they were allocated $296,000 and we were allocated $319,000,” he said.
Evert said the village will want to contact the state to make sure what it might donate to the district would be eligible for reimbursement.