Northam Announces More Money for Closed Schools

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Governor Ralph Northam is sending an additional $220 million of Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to Virginia’s schools, according to a Thursday press release. The money is intended to help purchase testing supplies, personal protective equipment, sanitation, and virtual learning technology.

The Virginia Star asked Northam’s spokesperson Alena Yarmousky why extra funding is needed even though most schools are in a largely virtual setting. “School divisions can use the funding as needed — including for technological upgrades for distance learning,” Yarmousky said.

According to the AP, the money is $20 million more than proposed by the House of Delegates in a recent budget. “The governor recently warned lawmakers that he won’t sign a budget that constricts his ability to spend federal relief funds,” the AP states.

“The Governor doesn’t give us a heads-up on anything like this, so he just makes an announcement,” Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) told The Virginia Star. Davis thought the funds could be helpful to schools transitioning from a fully-virtual environment to a hybrid model.

However, Davis said, “[Continued school closures] disproportionately hurt poorer communities. It disproportionately hurts minority communities, which have less access to high speed bandwidth.” Davis added, “I do think the Governor is ignoring the significant and immediate needs of our students.”

The press release adds, “Governor Northam was one of the first governors in the country to close schools for in-person instruction when COVID-19 began to spread quickly during the 2020 spring semester.”

Davis is running for lieutenant governor, and he’s critical of the way the governor made the decision to close schools.

Davis said Northam should have gathered teachers, doctors, and other professionals for a discussion: “Here’s the problem. Now let’s all put our heads together and figure out the best way to make sure that we are able to fully give a quality years-worth of education to our students, but in a safe manner,” Davis suggested.  “That’s a conversation that needs to be had, that’s not what occurred.”

“A lot of what we’re seeing today is due to poor planning prior to the school year,” Davis said. “And you can talk to almost any superintendent and they’ll share the frustration about the continual change of positions by the Governor that really caused them to be ill-prepared for this school year.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected]

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