The cost of schools reopening? $1.77 million for the average district

The cost of schools reopening? $1.77 million for the average district
[Photo: Ivan Aleksic/Unsplash; NeONBRAND/Unsplash]

To reopen this fall, the average school district will spend more than $1.77 million to cover costs, such as cleaning, staff to help implement health and safety protocols, and personal protective equipment.

The total cost, as calculated by the Association of School Business Officials and the School Superintendents Association is $1,778,139, though factors such as regional prices, economies of scale, and how easy it is to buy what’s needed and hire necessary staff will make that grow or shrink.

Here’s the breakdown they made:
  • Hand sanitizers for classrooms, $39,517
  • Disinfectant wipes for classrooms (four a day per classroom), $16,833
  • No-touch thermometer (one per school), $640
  • Oximeter (one per school), $360
  • Electrostatic disinfectant sprayers, $33,600
  • Deep cleaning of school after a confirmed case, $26,000
  • Additional custodial staff for increased cleaning of schools and buses, $448,000
  • One nurse in every school, $400,000
  • One aide per bus to screen student temperatures before boarding, $384,000
  • Gloves for custodial staff (five pairs a day for two custodians per school), $1,440
  • Daily disposable masks for staff, $44,415
  • Disposable masks for students who don’t bring masks from home (estimated 30% of students), $148,190
  • Resume before- and after-school childcare programs with social distancing and cleaning protocols, $168,750
  • Fog machines and cleaner for buses (seven machines), $55,860
  • Hand sanitizer for buses, $10,534

For this tally, the average school district is defined as having 3,659 students, eight school buildings, 183 classrooms, 329 staff members, and 40 school buses, one-quarter filled to ensure social distancing on board.

Superintendent Alex Ruvalcaba of the Rosemead, California, school district has begun thinking about the costs of reopening, although the governor of his state, Gavin Newsom, isn’t allowing most schools to reopen for in-person classes in the fall. Rosemead will get 60 days’ worth of PPE from the state, and the small district will use existing staff to do temperature checks. However, Ruvalcaba expects transportation costs to rise, as the bus companies the district contracts with will raise prices to cover their additional cleaning costs.

“In an ideal world, I’d prefer to purchase new textbooks, more technology, allocate more resources to at-promise students,” he says. “It’s not the reality of what we’re dealing with now. Right now, safety first and academics second.”