In March, the coronavirus forced the Cobb County and Marietta school districts to quickly pivot to online learning. Both have since committed to offering students the option to continue learning virtually when the 2020-21 school year begins in August.
The pivot has been expensive, the districts have said. But county government might help.
Tuesday, the county’s governing board will consider giving the Cobb County School District more than $8.1 million to defray its costs related to virtual learning imposed by the pandemic.
According to the proposal, the county would reimburse the school district for such expenses using money the former received from the federal government in April.
The money, totaling more than $132 million, was made available by the CARES Act, a stimulus bill Congress passed in late March to help individuals, businesses and state and local governments weather the economic impact of the coronavirus.
The Cobb and Marietta school districts received a portion of that money as well. But it won’t be enough, they say.
Last week, Gov. Brian Kemp signed the state budget, which cuts K-12 education by $950 million and does not include the 2% raises Kemp had in his original budget recommendations, before the virus caused state tax collection shortfalls.
Of the $411 million provided to the state by the CARES Act, the 113,000-student Cobb district received about $16 million, while Marietta schools — with 9,000 students — was given about a tenth of that, $1.6 million.
“There will be some people that say, ‘Well, wait a minute, you got CARES Act funding from the state to each school,’ and that’s true,” Ragsdale said, addressing the school board at a meeting in June. “Now even though we’re the second-largest district in the state, I forget what number we are in amount of money received. It’s not second.”
Ragsdale later said the district received the sixth highest amount of funding statewide.
The superintendent said then the school district had been preparing for 14% budget cuts, which would have left a budget hole of $80 million for Cobb schools. With budget cuts closer to 11% in late June, Ragsdale said the $16 million in CARES Act money will still fall well short of the gap.
“So, yes, we still drastically need the funding of ... the proposal that we have submitted to commissioners,” he said at the meeting.