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Schools could get extra time to spend on construction

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Schools could get extra time to spend on construction

Schools may get more time to spend federal funds on building renovations, according to the U.S. Department of Education. letter Friday.

The announcement is good news for school district leaders worried that problems with inflation and supply chains make it difficult to complete the planned modernization of buildings by the current deadline of September 2024.

The department’s letter says states can apply for an extension, allowing schools until April 2026 to spend the last of COVID’s funds on facility improvements.

“We are grateful for the flexibility and clarity provided by Secretary Cardon regarding the timing of school construction and, in particular, the modernization of ventilation and air conditioning,” said Daniel Domenech, executive director of AASA, the Association of School Supervisors, which had pushed for extension.

This move reflects the fact that many school districts have decided invest part of their money to help COVID in facility projects, especially in the modernization of ventilation air conditioning. For some it is a sensible use of disposables, especially in places like Detroit and Newark who have received large sums and have outdated buildings or other long-standing problems with facilities.

But for others, spending emergency funds on construction does not allow prioritizing the increased and immediate needs of existing students. The extension emphasizes that some of the projects will not bear fruit for years after the school was first disrupted by a pandemic.

Federal officials are cautious, saying they are discouraging schools from using assistance from COVID for “new construction,” but giving their stamp of approval approving the modernization of existing buildings.

“The department understands that schools need to address urgent and urgent projects, including school infrastructure projects designed to protect the health and safety of students, teachers and staff during this pandemic,” Assistant Education Minister Roberto Rodriguez wrote in the letter.

Extending schools will still need to allocate funds for specific projects by September 2024, but they will have another 18 months to actually spend those dollars. For example, the district may sign a building renovation contract in September 2024 and then pay that contractor within 18 months.

“Requests for longer periods can be considered as related to emergencies,” Rodriguez wrote.

AASA, whose leaders have had discussions with department officials, tells its members that they can count on a waiver.

“We are sure of that [states] will not hesitate to apply for this runway at additional cost, ”the group said in a statement. website. “Co-applicants need to be confident that you have more time to complete and raise funding for these projects.”

This is what the heads of local schools say $ 190 billion over the past two years, federal government assistance has become a major lifeline in the field of COVID. Schools used the money to purchase distance learning tools, hire more counselors or social workers, expand tutoring programs and avoid serious budget cuts – in addition to construction planning. repair work.

Fiscal experts warning against spend too much money on recurring expenses such as staff, making construction costs an attractive option. And research shows that improved ventilation and building quality can enhance student learning.

But some advocates and parents want districts to spend more aggressively on current student needs.

Detroit recently announced Fr. Plan facilities for $ 700 million using exclusively COVID aids. The plan, which calls for the construction of new buildings, should be completed by the fall of 2025.

At a recent school board meeting, one parent challenged this attention and offered to hire more teachers instead. “I really hoped that instead of seeing the facility plan, the new plan and the updated plan, we would really get a major overhaul in our buildings to really complement the training.” said the father.

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