The Prince William County School Board voted 8-0 Wednesday to request $23.4 million from the county to spend on one-time costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school division isn’t basing that amount on actual spending in response to the pandemic. It’s based on an existing budget agreement between the school division and the county. And it would leave the county with about $1.6 million to cover any COVID-19 costs between now and the end of the calendar year.
The Board of County Supervisors has a long-standing agreement to give the division at least 57.23% of the county’s general revenue in a given calendar year. The county received $41 million in federal aid, and the school board suggests it should receive 57.23%.
The county has already spent nearly $15 million of the money on an emergency housing assistance program that can cover rent, mortgage or utility payments; a small business relief grant program; and funding for social services tied to the pandemic. And the county sent more than $700,000 in funding to area towns for their COVID-related costs.
Several school board members said the 2020-2021 school year may be affected by the pandemic, which could mean required distance learning, alternative schedules and more.
Superintendent Steve Walts said officials from the Virginia Department of Education are expected to provide guidance on how to safely open schools to students in the fall.
“We expect to open in-person August 25,” Walts said.
To prepare for the possibility of required remote learning in the fall, Walts said the division expects to order more laptops for students July 1, when the next fiscal year begins.
The division ordered 15,500 laptops in early April. They’ll cost about $6.4 million, including software installation, student account setup, inventory and delivery, according to the division.
Walts said staff also plans to receive input from parents on their plans and to provide training for families about online learning.
The board said the $23.4 million will be spent toward COVID-19 related expenses such as developing distance instruction, buying technology for students and staff, professional development, safety and security expenses for schools, staff and students and personal protective equipment.
School Board member Jennifer Wall said she agreed with adding a description of the school board’s plan to spend the funding.
“I’d love to see our boards work more collaboratively together for the good of our students,” Wall said during the meeting. “I think that's great.”
School Board member Loree Williams said she thinks this is an appropriate request at this time.
“I think it's important that we’re clear in our line of communication with them,” Williams said during the meeting.
The school board also voted 8-0 Wednesday to adopt its $1.6 billion budget, which included less money than requested — $35.9 million less from the county and $17.6 million less from the state. The budget included a 2.8% pay raise for teachers and employees starting July 1.
New Schools, New Decisions
The school board is set to consider naming the division’s 13th high school at its meeting on Wednesday, June 10.
The school board is also set to hold a public hearing and schedule a final vote on the adoption of new school attendance boundaries for the new Potomac Shores Middle School set to open in fall 2021.
The new school boundaries are expected to impact Beville, Fred Lynn, Graham Park, Hampton, Potomac, Rippon, Saunders and Woodbridge middle schools. Those schools have a combined 10,135 students.
The new school, which has not been named, is currently under construction at 17851 Woods View Dr. in Dumfries on 52.52 acres.