Schumer pushes for funding to help schools safely reopen

Sen. Charles Schumer, left, with FDR High School Principal Rick Pardy

STAATSBURG — Schools in the Hudson Valley, greater New York and across the country are eager to reopen, having been closed for so long during the COVID 19 pandemic; however, the amount of funding they need to create a safe school environment is just not in their budgets.

Thursday, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) took a tour of Hudson Valley school districts to promote a new bill that would provide $175 billion in funding for the nation’s schools to cover the costs of the many adjustments they would need to undergo in order to reopen safely.

The coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCERA) would secure funds for more buses, staffing for increases in driving the extra buses as well as for disinfecting the schools nightly, PPE for all staff and students, new furnishings that would promote social distancing in the classrooms and potential construction if schools need to be redesigned at a structural level to ensure social distancing.

FDR High School Principal Rick Pardy gave an example of how something like funding for adequate, social-distance-conducive furnishings can bring back the quality of education to where it was before schools had closed down.

“One of the very large movements recently in high schools is collaborative learning- to get different perspectives and for students to learn from students. Students learn best from each other. We know that. This is happening right now. We’re learning together; but, what ends up happening is, schools move towards tables. High school students move towards tables, circular tables, to increase collaboration,” said Pardy. “Now, if students have to be six feet apart, they can’t work at a round table anymore, you have to look at how you can get desks and how you can configure those desks to move the students apart,” he said.

Superintendent of Hyde Park School District Aviva Kafka said she estimates their school district alone would require in the millions of funding to achieve these safety measures.

Schumer didn’t shy away from the idea that it will take an astronomical amount of money to accomplish this.

“It’s an expensive proposition to make our schools safe, but it is worth it. We cannot keep our kids away from learning. The kids are our future. We cannot endanger our teachers. They are our future,” said Schumer.

He added that this situation doesn’t only affect the education of the country’s youth, it will cause detriment to the economy, local and otherwise.

If the schools don’t open; parents, about one third of the workforce, has a child that’s below 13 years of age. Who’s going to watch the kids? If the schools aren’t open, it’s going to hurt the whole Dutchess County economy and the whole Hudson Valley economy,” he said.

Child care costs will also be included within the bill.

Schumer said he will submit this bill into the COVID 4 package within the next coming weeks and assured the school officials that there is bi-partisan support for having this legislation included in that package.

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