Itemizer-Observer

DALLAS — Even in the midst of a pandemic, with the economy suffering and enrollment down, the Dallas School District is financially afloat — for now.

A pledge of no cuts from state lawmakers and an infusion of federal funds have kept the district in solid standing for 2020-21 school year.

Debbie MacLean, the district’s director of fiscal services, said the federal funds have been used to offset the cost of equipment and planning for switching to distance learning.

Some of the federal funds can be used broadly, and Dallas used that money to pay for the personnel that redesigned classes for distancing learning, called the re-entry team, and personal protective equipment.

MacLean said that the district has spent almost $60,000 on PPE, and the re-entry team work cost almost $48,000 as of the end of September.

Some funding could only be spent on needs related to comprehensive distance learning. That was spent on devices for students and teachers and data plans or hot spots for students without internet access.

“In order to deliver a robust comprehensive learning system, these items were required or we just weren’t going be able to do it. They weren’t budgeted. We have about $100,000 budget for student devices, but a lot of these other things weren’t budgeted.”

MacLean said districts have been allowed to use money used to fund specific initiatives aimed at assisting with class size and behavioral support, called the Student Investment Account, to fill in gaps. Dallas, along with all other districts, submitted a plan to use that money last spring, around the same time the pandemic began.

“One of things that is very helpful right now just like many districts around the state, we do have the  ability to shore up the general fund this year by using the student investment account, as long as we use those funds in the same budget categories as was submitted in our plan,” she said. “ODE is allowing this without making any adjustments. That’s how an awful lot of districts are getting through this year with the kinds of expenditures that have been necessary.”

In other business, the district:

Began delivering meals to students in areas of the school district that are out of walking distance from a meal site. Including Bridlewood and areas north of Ellendale Avenue.

“In those areas where it’s not as easy for kids to work to pick up their meals. Each bus has five stops. They remain there 15 minutes eachm” MacLean said. “Week 1 and 2, it’s been about 100 meals a day that have been served with that delivery method, but I think it will grow. We’ve been really happy to partner with Mid-Columbia and get it out to some additional kids.”

MacLean said student use of the meal program has exploded since the beginning of the pandemic.

“I think our community has benefitted greatly from the (federal) waivers and being able to feed kids,” MacLean said. “That carried through this summer like it had not in prior years.”

The USDA, which provides funding for school meal programs, is the expanded program through June 30, 2021.

“That’s going to allow us to feed all kids, ages 0 to 18 for free in any area of our district,” MacLean said.

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