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$116 Billion Price Tag To Reopen Schools


By Dan Hounsell Facilities Management
Teacher back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown, disinfecting desks

Facility managers the nation’s K-12 schools have known for decades that their buildings are in dire straits, thanks to deferred maintenance. They also know the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on e public school district finances has been devastating. And they know that when schools that have been closed since March reopen in the fall, they face a lengthy set of challenges.

Now, managers also know perhaps the most important factor in their efforts to ensure that reopened facilities are healthy and safe – the costs.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) estimates that to reopen schools in the fall both safely and with the proper academic and emotional support in place will cost a total of $116.5 billion, with the average school needing an additional $1.2 million, or $2,300 per student, to open its doors, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Earlier, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, and the Association of School Business Officials International, said that to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's safety recommendations for reopening, school districts will have to spend nearly $2 million per district that they had not budgeted for – a cost so prohibitive that some are now scrapping plans for in-person classes entirely this fall.

Included in the AFT's more severe analysis, which more than quadruples previous estimates, is funding for instructional staff, distance learning, before- and after-school care, transportation, personal protective equipment, cleaning and health supplies, health staffing, custodial and cleaning staff, meeting children's social and emotional needs and additional academic support for students.

Dan Hounsell is editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

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