Cobb County schools can expect a shipment of new equipment designed to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 in schools over the next week, according to Superintendent Chris Ragsdale.
In a board meeting held on Thursday afternoon, Ragsdale said the district purchased thousands of plexiglass dividers to separate students in their classrooms.
“We have ordered and expect to get in this week, I think, over 73,000 plexiglass desk shields for classrooms,” Ragsdale said. “Because a lot of students are doing snacks and food and such in the classroom.”
According to district spokesperson Eric Rauch, the order is funded by a $15 million pool established in the district budget to be used specifically for expenses related to COVID-19. Rauch did not state the cost of the plexiglass dividers.
Ragsdale said the district and Georgia Emergency management have already provided personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to schools. According to Ragsdale, each teacher received a mask with the Cobb County School District logo printed on the front. He also said the district has a stockpile of 14,000 gallons of hand sanitizer for schools.
“We have hundreds of thousands of disposable masks, face shields for every teacher and school employee, classroom hand sanitizer bottles that can be refilled with hand sanitizer provided by GEMA,” Ragsdale said.
Other equipment on hand includes thermometers, gowns and foggers used to rapidly spray and sanitize classrooms.
“We’ve purchased a lot,” Ragsdale said. “GEMA has provided a lot.”
Board member Jaha Howard said the news of a mask and hand sanitizer stockpile, as well as the news of the plexiglass divider shipment, is reassuring for board members and district families.
“That’s great news because, as board members we can literally, based on what you’re telling us, we can rest assured that, in all of our schools, we have enough masks,” Howard said. “To hear you say, ‘We have plenty and that’s not a concern,’ that’s going to help me sleep better at night, and I know our teachers will sleep better at night knowing that they have plenty of masks, they have the buildings being cleaned the way that we said.”
Calls for federal stimulusCoronavirus-related expenditures are not only limited to cleaning supplies, but also apply to personnel.
During a period of board business, Howard invited consultant James Wilson to speak to the board about the role of substitute and supply teachers in the district. Wilson, who regularly works with the district on issues related to human resources, said he worked with Ragsdale to place supply teachers in district schools amid the pandemic.
Supply teachers are similar to substitute teachers, but they work in schools for periods longer than 10 days. Supply teachers in schools are able to fill in as needed, acting as long-term substitutes. According to district spokesperson Eric Rauch, supply teachers are provided to elementary, middle and high schools based on individual school needs.
“Each school has been provided supply teachers based on their need,” Rauch said.
In order to pay for these long-term substitute teachers, the district has used some money from its current fiscal year budget and some money from federal CARES Act funding, Ragsdale said. In order to continue funding coronavirus-related expenses, Ragsdale called on the federal government to pass another stimulus package.
“Hopefully, and again I preach apolitical-ness all the time, and this is truly apolitical again, but they need to come together for this last stimulus package, because I’m hearing that there’s a lot of money in there for school districts to be able to stay in school,” Ragsdale said.
The superintendent hopes the district will receive more funding through an additional stimulus bill, but he acknowledged that may not come until after Election Day on Nov. 3.
Howard asked the superintendent if the district will need additional federal funding for the spring semester in 2021.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Ragsdale said, “but I would lean further on the side of ‘a bind is coming’ at some point in time.”