SJSD working to cover the costs of education, meals and cleaning supplies during the pandemic

St. Joseph School District students will return to the classroom or will attend school virtually at the end of the month. It's been quite the process to get the plan in place, and a big question along the way, where will the district get the money to cover costs during a pandemic.

Posted: Aug 3, 2020 9:35 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) When Congress passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package in March, the St. Joseph School District didn't know it would be a life line.

“To be honest with you, we would have a hard staying above water if it wasn't for things like this," Dr. Gabe Edgar, Director of Finance for the St. Joseph School District said.

The district will see more than $4 million in Cares Act funding and other federal aid. That pot of money will help make up for more than $3 million in state cuts to education.

"Talking about four and a half-million dollars in things that we did not need until this happened, until the pandemic happened,” Edgar said.

Like many districts, the St. Joseph School District is facing a mountain of uncertainty as it faces the start of the school year.

From refiguring classrooms to hundreds of thousands of dollars for styrofoam food trays, the exact cost to return to school is hard to pinpoint.

"$500,000 just to feed the kids in the classroom for breakfast and lunch. We serve about 8.500 meals a day,” Edgar said.

Also thousands of dollars in cleaning supplies are needed.

"We didn't have the proper equipment to keep our buildings clean and when you have 31 buildings it takes a little bit to clean those things,” Edgar said.

As well as supplies for buses too.

All of this being done to help give families a feeling of confidence and relief to either send their kids back to school.

"There are a lot of our families that rely on us for food. There are a lot of our families that feel more comfortable with an in-person learning situation and a lot of our students learn better in that particular situation. When you talk about equity and trying to be consistent and providing opportunities that's why we thought it was best to provide the two options,” Dr. Doug Van Zyl, superintendent of the St. Joseph School District said.

Thousands of dollars also used for the new virtual academy too, and in the end of it all the more $4 million in aid to use for Covid puts the district in a much better spot because without it, cuts would have had to be made.

Edgar adds he has not heard of any additional cuts to education coming from the state yet.

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