HAMDEN, CT — Hamden’s legislative delegation is urging the state Department of Education to provide the town with more than $780,000 in federal funding to help the district with reopening costs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a joint letter to Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, state Senate President Martin Looney and representatives Michael D’Agostino, Robyn Porter and Josh Elliot are requesting $784,521 in federal CARES Act funding to help cover the cost of additional buses and bus monitors that will be needed to ensure social distancing in the district’s reopening plan.
The Hamden Board of Education recently voted to delay the reopening of schools until Sept. 15 due to concerns over staffing shortages. The district had been scheduled to open on Sept. 8.
Hamden’s transportation cost estimates have increased significantly since the district submitted its original request to the state Department of Education in July. Since then, the district has determined that five additional buses and 25 bus monitors will be needed to ensure social distancing and safety, according to the legislators.
To compound the funding issue, the state Department of Education recently notified Hamden that it would receive only 43 percent of its original request of CARES Act funding.
“Further, due to an error that the Department made, Hamden also received the unfortunate news that the Department was also clawing back $250,000 in desperately needed transportation funds,” the legislators wrote in the letter to Cardona.
Legislators said the reductions will “inevitably result in layoffs and the curtailing of needed programs.”
“In this difficult time, it is critical that school districts receive the proper resources needed to ensure the well-being of students and teachers,” Looney said. “I hope Commissioner Cardona will quickly fulfill our request and provide Hamden’s school district with this funding so that schools can reopen properly, and students and teachers feel that the classroom is a safe environment.”
The Hamden school district worked together with its staff to put together a “flexible, thoughtful, hybrid reopening plan that has served as a model for other districts,” according to the legislators.
“Please do not let that plan fail – before it begins – due to a calculation error and partial funding,” the letter to Cardona states. “We urge you to provide the district with the additional emergency funding it has requested.”
D’Agostino, D-91, said the district has “complied with any and all requests from the department, but the anticipated funds fall far short of what is necessary to ensure the health and safety of students. We’re asking commissioner Cardona to act quickly so the students and staff can be as safe as possible.”
“No one was prepared for COVID-19 and the toll it would take,” said Porter, D-94. “This request for additional resources is tied directly to the health and well-being of teachers, students and their families and I would hope that SDE recognizes the importance of meeting this need for our community.”
Elliot, D-88, said: “My colleagues and I are working to ensure that Hamden is awarded its fair share of economic relief from the state. Due to a clerical error Hamden did not get what it needed to be fully compensated for COVID related costs. That will be remedied, and the costs will not be fully borne by the taxpayers of Hamden.”