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Friday, September 25 News

Westport finance board approves $1.18 million for schools’ COVID related expenses

WESTPORT — The Board of Finance unanimously approved spending $1,182,500 for actual and anticipated COVID-related expenses for schools.

The funds come from the Board of Education’s carryover account and had to be approved by the finance board before they could be used.

Elio Longo, schools’ chief financial officer, said $750,000 will go into technology and the remote learning program. Funding is also requested for four months of transportation, funding for custodial overtime and more.

Longo said the district operates with two custodial shifts at the five elementary schools, with the second shift traditionally working from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. He said custodians will now report at 11 a.m. and finish at 7 p.m.

“Now that we’re introducing a p.m. session, we’re rolling back the second shift,” Longo said at a finance board meeting Wednesday. “Depending on whether we re-open our schools for extra-curricular activities, after school activities such as parks and (recreation) and continuing education — we may very well experience some overtime custodial hours.”

The district is also reserving money for personal protective equipment as they look for a state grant or assistance, Longo said.

Superintendent Tom Scarice said he’s also spoken with Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona regarding assistance from the state.

“He assured us that we would be funded in some part from the coronavirus relief funds,” Scarice said.

The finance board asked for a followup report at its October meeting as well as a review of risks and opportunities at a meeting in November.

“What we’re looking for here is no surprises,” BOF Chair Brian Stern said.

Scarice said the monetary risk is running a hybrid model longer than the district is expecting to.

“If we go back to full instruction or if we go to fully remote, then some of these costs will go away,” he said, adding the district has seen an influx of new students.

But Scarice said the approval will help the district in case there has to be a pivot to full-remote learning.

“At Bedford and Coleytown through the high school, this will equip us to do livestream instruction right now under this model or any other model,” he said.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com

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