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State to Provide Additional $4 Million to Schools for COVID-19 Response

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – At its meeting this evening, the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education unanimously approved a measure to provide an additional $4 million to help Rhode Island school districts and charters respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure to allocate funds from the School Building Authority (SBA) Capital Fund will require final approval by the Rhode Island Health and Educational Building Corporation (RIHEBC) at its meeting tomorrow.

“Across our state, our school leaders have been working tirelessly to make capital investments to create safe and healthy learning environments to support students and teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “These additional funds will provide further state support to ensure our students are in school and learning which we know is the best environment is for them. It is another example of Rhode Islanders stepping up for our students and our future.”

“We have made it a top priority to provide all the support we can to our school communities as they respond to the current public health crisis and keep our students learning,” said Barbara Cottam, chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education. “The SBA Capital Fund gives us a powerful tool to move money quickly to our school leaders, so they can make immediate changes that improve safety for students and staff alike.”

The new funding will support projects that address air filtration (including portable units), ventilation, and restroom improvements, and will fund critical repairs made from July 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021. Pending approval, distributions will be made based on a formula that recognizes the municipal impact of COVID-19, with a minimum award of $10,000 per local education agency (LEA).

“Now more than ever, we must prioritize resources to protect the health and safety of our students and educators,” said Treasurer Seth Magaziner. “As a former public school teacher and co-chair of the state school construction task force, I fully support redirecting these capital funds to improving the air quality and overall safety of Rhode Island school buildings.”

“This school year has clearly been unlike any other. Teachers and staff of Rhode Island schools are doing an incredible job of educating our students safely, while navigating through countless challenges during this pandemic,” added Brett Smiley, Director of Administration for the State of Rhode Island. “Additional resources to support a safe school environment will help students continue to receive a quality education.”

Pursuant to state law, only LEAs that have submitted an asset protection plan for the previous year (FY20) are eligible to receive funding from the SBA Capital Fund. Funds received from the SBA Capital Fund cannot supplant any previously applied for or awarded federal funding for these purposes. Eligible LEAs will receive notice from the SBA about their grant amount and will need to return a Memorandum of Agreement in order to accept the distribution, which will be made by RIHEBC.