Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest COVID-19 proclamation allows school districts to use their current transportation funding allocation for the ongoing and new school bus services of delivering homework, school supplies, Wi-Fi connections, and meals during ongoing school closures.
Funds can also be used to transport students to and from learning centers or other public or private agencies, where educational and support services are provided.
School districts will continue to track and report the use of their school buses and the time their drivers spend providing those services to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The Washington Education Association, which said it made Inslee aware of the funding concerns for school districts, applauded the proclamation signed on Wednesday.
“This is a great win for bus drivers, transportation staff, and our students who rely on receiving meals, computers, and supplies in order to participate more fully in distance learning,” the association said in a statement. “We’ll continue to advocate for all of our ESP members who are so necessary to the successful operation of school, regardless of the form it takes.”
The educational union added that Inslee’s proclamation also recognizes that some students may currently be living in shelters or other non-traditional homes, and the flexible funding “allows for them to be transported to a place where they can receive their education, such as a childcare facility.”
“The governor’s order provides some financial security for districts, and for transportation employees, that should help keep these critical employees on the payroll while schools are using distance learning models,” the association continued. “It also recognizes that we will one day return to buildings. Keeping our bus drivers and transportation employees on staff will allow that to happen in a quicker and smoother fashion.”
Inslee’s added that the state of emergency he proclaimed in February remains intact until further notice. The state had at least 71,705 active cases of COVID-19 cases on Aug. 25, up from 51,849 cases one month earlier. COVID-19-related deaths also rose by nearly 400 over that same time span.
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