Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration may use more than $3 million in federal Cares Act money to fund the school district’s purchase of digital boards, Chromebooks, thermal cameras, and protective gears.
Business administrator Kathleen Long on Tuesday night said the city is seeking $6.1 million more from the Passaic County government in Cares Act funds. Previously, the city was allocated $8.5 million by the county. She said a large chunk of the funds from the new request will cover purchases for the school district:
- $2 million for Promethean boards
- $200,000 for more Chromebooks
- Little under $1 million for thermal cameras for school buildings and district headquarters
- And $500,000 for personal protective equipment.
School officials have struggled with the coronavirus pandemic. Schools buildings were closed in March and never reopened for the new school year because of the coronavirus. Students have been receiving instruction remotely. Many students were provided new Chromebooks, but many others are using old refurbished devices.
“They are not giving us the money, they actually have to purchase it,” said school board president Kenneth Simmons.
“We are very thankful to everyone at the City of Paterson and the County of Passaic who have been working with us. We’re all working together to help the district obtain the resources needed to get Paterson Public Schools through the pandemic,” said superintendent Eileen Shafer on Wednesday.
Members of the City Council were in support of aiding the school district. Councilman Luis Velez initially appeared to question the proposal, but few minutes later had a change of heart.
“I don’t care where the money comes from it needed to get done,” said councilman Al Abdelaziz. “If anything this pandemic showed is the technology disparity amongst the urban and suburban students.”
Abdelaziz said the prolonged school closure is setting the city’s mostly disadvantaged students behind their peers elsewhere.
Simmons said a key part of the request were the thermal scanners for every school building.
Long said the purchases are to assist the district with its reopening plan. The purchases may aid in returning teachers and students to the classroom.
School officials will decide whether to start in-person learning next year in mid-December.
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