CDC estimates costs for schools’ COVID-19 mitigation strategies

By: - December 15, 2020 12:50 am

Children wearing protective face masks sit in a classroom. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released COVID-19 mitigation strategies for schools in the 2020-2021 school year, and estimated costs schools would have to pay.

The CDC acknowledged that the risk of hospitalizations or deaths from COVID-19 among children is lower than for adults, but said the risk “posed to teachers and other staff members in the school environment is expected to mirror that of other adults with similar demographic characteristics in the community,” according to a recent CDC report.

The CDC wrote that districts should determine the risk of in-person schooling based on the use of strategies such as “consistent and correct” use of masks, social distancing, hygiene, cleaning and disinfection and contact tracing in partnership with local health departments.

In determining the costs needed to fund these mitigation strategies, the CDC report left out contact tracing.

“Contact tracing, although an essential strategy to reduce transmission, was excluded because these costs are not financed by school district budgets,” the report stated.

In order to safely reopen and keep schools open for in-person learning, the CDC found that the average district would need $55 per student for “materials and consumables” alone.

“This cost increases to a maximum average of $442 per student if a school district needs or chooses to employ a maximum number of additional custodial staff members per school and add additional transportation,” the report stated.

The study based it’s estimates on fiscal year 2018 numbers published by the National Center for Education Statistics. Based on that year’s data, Ohio had 3,619 schools and more than 322,000 teachers and staff members, with 1.7 million students enrolled.

The pandemic costs would increase budgets in Ohio from 0.4% to 3.8% from 2018 levels, according to the CDC.

For that number of teachers, staff and students, COVID-19 mitigation costs for the state were estimated at more than $86 million for materials and consumables, and the lowest estimated cost for full-time custodians would be nearly $180 million.

The average costs per student would range from $380 to $485 to implement COVID-19 precautions.

Earlier this month, the Ohio Education Association urged school districts statewide to suspend in-person learning until mid-January in light of the “alarming explosion” in coronavirus spread.

Gov. Mike DeWine has been pushing for a federal coronavirus relief bill as well, to bring more funds to the state to help with the costs and losses resulting from the virus.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

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