Though county schools face huge challenges navigating reopening amid the pandemic this fall, a recent delivery from the State of California will provide some much-needed assistance.
The Calaveras County Office of Education recently received a shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE) allocated by the California Department of Public Health and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, which was distributed to schools across the county. The delivery was part of a larger state effort to supply schools across the state with safety supplies.
The supplies were provided at no cost to local schools, and include 960 N95 masks for school medical staff; 6,500 adult cloth masks; 8,000 adult surgical masks; 1,200 face shields; 100 thermometers; and 5,568 bottles of hand sanitizer. A shipment of 16,000 child-sized cloth and surgical masks will follow soon.
“We are extremely excited and glad for any assistance that we can get,” County Superintendent of Schools Scott Nanik said. “That initial supply was estimated to last us about 60 days, so the first couple of months of school.”
Procuring adequate safety supplies for the school year is a big concern, Nanik said.
“The state is supposed to be working on a procedure for us to be able to access directly from the state their supply and suppliers, but they probably won’t have that ready until the end of August, so hopefully we’ll get into the middle of September before we have to reorder,” he said. “We’ll see how long the cloth masks last. We still don’t have a clear determination from the state on whether masks are going to be required on students or not.”
Nanik said that he hopes the state will provide more supplies at no cost to the schools.
“I’m hoping that they will be able to supply them to us free, but any discount, or even availability, will be a big help,” he said. “It’s a big burden on schools if we have to run most of the year with some type of face coverings and all these procedures. The costs are going to add up quickly.”
The price of PPE and other safety supplies have increased significantly, Nanik said.
“If you can find them, it’s really difficult to afford them,” he said. “We were just recently trying to buy sanitation wipes – like Clorox wipes – for some of our positions, and we can’t find anything.”
County schools are currently planning on a mix of in-person instruction and distance learning, in line with state guidelines.
“Each one is kind of doing their own model which best fits their students and their parents,” Nanik said. “Right now the plan is everybody will offer some type of blend.”
Nanik said that abiding by state guidelines will be a big challenge for the county’s schools.
“They’re challenging for staff, and they’re challenging for families, because if we’re offering a blended learning program, how do you coordinate siblings at different schools? How do parents work when they still have students in school, and at some ages there’s no way they can be at home alone?” he said. “It’s challenging. It’s feasible, but it’s definitely not ideal.”
State guidelines concerning transportation will be especially difficult, Nanik said.
“It’s very expensive to run buses, and to duplicate bus routes (to ensure social distancing) is a huge financial burden on school districts,” he said. “We really need the flexibility from the state to allow us to put students on the bus with facemasks, leave the windows open and do the best we can to get them to school safely.”
Nanik said he hoped the federal government would provide more funding for schools during the crisis.
“We are extremely hopeful,” he said. “That would make a huge difference in our ability to better serve students.”