After writing about the Biden administration’s new policy that school districts can use FEMA funds for safely reopening, I found out that Philadelphia is very much exploring this option.
If Philly does apply for these funds, and if the money can go towards infrastructure improvements like ventilation systems (which they should), I think school district leaders and education organizers should make two things very clear:
1) These funds must not be rigidly tied to a reopening schedule that outpaces vaccination. We can’t have districts taking money on the condition that they’ll reopen independently of teachers, students, and families getting vaccinated. Safe reopening is vaccinated reopening, and schools should get money for improvements either way.
2) Districts should be ready with low-to-zero emission plans for ventilation system updates. The contracts should be green. The jobs should be green. The systems put in place should be green. All efforts should be made to have two bottom lines here: get the best bang for the FEMA buck and put in place systems that reduce building emissions. (I’ve written about these plans before, there’s tons of information out there about how to do it.)