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$100 million: That's what it could cost the Guilford County School District to open classrooms next year

The state has handed down the rules and regulations for school districts to implement a plan of action. The one thing missing: how will they pay for it?

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Sticker shock may be an understatement when you hear the cost of sending kids back to school in the fall in Guilford County. The District estimates the cost to put kids back in the classroom and properly social distance could be upwards of $100 million. 

“The question really is, is this possible, that’s what superintendents all over America are asking,” said Guilford County Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras.

New health guidelines released Monday by the state outline the first step to help North Carolina K-12 public schools figure out a safe way to open to in-person instruction for the next academic year.

The comprehensive plan lays out a set of baseline health practices that public schools are advised to follow to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for students, staff, and families. The plan consists of not only recommendations, but requirements that schools must implement to minimize the spread of COVID-19 while allowing in-person teaching to resume.

In an exclusive interview with News 2, Dr. Sharon Contreras had some serious concerns about the plan laid out by the state. The obvious question is funding - most school districts don’t have millions of dollars in excess funding. 

“It doesn’t seem practical at the moment, but we are seeing what we can do,” said Dr. Contreras.

Governor Roy Cooper, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis, and NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen announced the guidance Monday.

Schools are being told to come up with a plan for opening back up under three possible scenarios - Plan A: Minimal Social Distancing, Plan B: Moderate Social Distancing, or Plan C: Remote Learning Only. 

“That’s (Remote Learning) not a good solution for our children or for this country,” said Dr. Contreras.

Guilford County School District staff is currently looking at the size of every building in the district for “Covid-19 capacity” – basically, how many kids and teachers could be in a specific room at a time. There is a possibility that some kids would have to be placed at another school that has more space for social distancing.

Dr. Contreras said all students and staff would have their temperature taken before the start of the day to ensure they are not running a fever. Masks may be required, and kids could end up staying in one room all day.

Guilford County School District is also looking into virtual learning schools for parents who don’t want to send their child back to school if classrooms open but would like to stay in the district. Dr. Contreras said polling around the nation on that idea is split equally.

NCDHHS, along with the State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction, will announce by July 1 which of the plans should be implemented for schools to reopen. There is, however, a chance the remaining plans may be needed if the state’s COVID-19 metrics change over time.

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