ORLANDO, Fla. — The House received the Senate’s version of the Biden administration’s massive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Tuesday morning. Included in that bill is funding for the vaccine rollout, direct payments for the majority of Americans along with $130 billion to reopen schools safely across the country.
What You Need To Know
- The U.S. House is preparing to vote on the Biden administration's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill
- If passed and signed into law, it would provide $130 billion to help school systems reopen
- Educatiors and officials say the funding would help pay for precautions that would make it safer to teach students in person
Following a state order, Florida reopened its schools for in-person learning in the fall. To accommodate students and staff returning to classrooms, districts made changes to normal learning routines to accommodate social distancing and improved cleaning.
But if the proposed COVID-19 relief legislation passes, schools in the sunshine state could see more funding for safety improvements.
Like many of his fellow teachers at Orange County Public Schools, Matthew Hazel has spent the last school year teaching both in-person and to LaunchEd students at home.
“It was a bit of an adjustment but we’ve worked out a pretty good routine at this point, the combination is going OK,” said Matthew Hazel, who teaches at Freedom High School.
When the order from the state came down to reopen schools this fall, OCPS made safety improvements.
According to the district, OCPS's heating ventilating and air conditioning system filters have been upgraded to achieve higher levels of filtration supportable by existing HVAC system. And, OCPS officials said HVAC schedules have been adjusted to extended ventilation before and after students and staff arrive, to provide for flushing of spaces consistent with the recommendation of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
The district, like many others around the state, also provided cleaning supplies for staff and teachers to use along with personal protective equipment (PPE).
Hazel said what’s made himself and his fellow teachers more comfortable recently is access to the vaccine.
“I feel better going in knowing that we have that protection,” he said.
Inside the Biden administration’s proposed COVID-19 relief bill is $130 billion in funding to safely reopen schools across the US, money districts can use for HVAC improvements, reducing class sizes for social distancing in classrooms, or to buy PPE.
Much of what the COVID-19 relief bill is proposing states use this added funding for in reopening their schools, are steps districts made in the sunshine state when they reopened months earlier. But more support is always welcome.
OCPS said they while they cannot speculate on how much money will be received or what it will be used for, any and all further support from the federal government to keep schools safe is appreciated.
Teachers like Hazel agree.
“The more money we can get from the federal government for safety in terms of just more availability of PPE, more cleaning, the more of that we can do the better,” Hazel said.
While Hazel said he’s got a comfortable routine down now teaching both to distance and in-person students, there are still a lot of unanswered questions in this pandemic, like if at-home learning will continue next year and if vaccines will eventually be approved for children. Even after a year of uncertainty, Hazel said a path forward out of this pandemic still feels unclear in his classroom.
“I’ve had students ask me questions about next year and there are just so many unknowns at this point," he said. "Everybody’s reacting as best they can but everyone’s just reacting to different events, it’s difficult to plan."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that a vote on the bill, which would include that funding for schools, is expected by Wednesday at the latest. If approved, it could be signed into law as early as this week.