It could cost SC $43 million per day to help schools make up for time lost to coronavirus
The state Department of Education is considering whether to add additional school days at the end of summer or in early fall to make up for classroom instruction time lost because of the coronavirus.
That could cost $42.5 million per day, or about $213 for one additional week of classroom time, according to figures the department provided Thursday.
During a meeting with the education task force accelerateEd, state Superintendent Molly Spearman said it would cost the state about $30 million per day to just bring in kindergarten through eighth-grade students.
The department has said a plan for summer learning would likely focus on kindergarten through third grade because of research that shows students who aren't on grade level by then may never catch up.
The state has more than 780,000 students, more than 1,200 public schools and 81 districts.
Those figures come at a time when state agencies are unsure what their budgets will look like for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which starts in July. The state General Assembly is expected to pass a continuing resolution that would fund agencies at the same level as the previous year until lawmakers can safely gather to debate a new budget.
For most districts, that means teachers and staff will not be getting their annual step increases or raises since schools will not be funded for them, though that could change if the Legislature passes a new budget in the fall.
What to know:Coronavirus in South Carolina
Greenville County Schools spokesperson Teri Brinkman said the district is not planning on being able to provide step increases if legislators pass a continuing resolution.
If the budget were to change drastically mid-year, Brinkman said it could change the district's operations.
"We're very aware of all that and obviously very concerned about how it could affect education long-term," Brinkman said.
Spearman said if the state does decide to add instructional days, districts would likely have to front their portion of the cost but could be reimbursed through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
"It's very expensive, but it certainly falls under the categories that can be funded through the CARES Act," Spearman said.
Brown said the $216 million the state is getting for primary and secondary education from the CARES Act likely wouldn't cover all of the costs associated with added instructional days, but the state is also getting $1.9 billion in funding that Gov. Henry McMaster is tasking a panel called accelerateSC to help determine how to use.
Ariel Gilreath is a watchdog reporter focusing on education and family issues with The Greenville News and Independent Mail. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ArielGilreath.