Paterson BOE Looking for Money to Buy Body Temperature Monitors for Schools

PATERSON -— City education officials are looking to spend about $187,000 to buy 60 walk-through body temperature detectors for every Paterson school to conduct student and staff health screenings whenever in-person classes resume.

But the Paterson school district doesn’t have any money for the devices. The district has already spent $11.6 million in COVID-19 emergency funding it received from the federal government.

So the Paterson Board of Education is looking for help from City Hall, which has gotten about $8.5 million in coronavirus aid. City officials say they already had allocated all of that funding.

As a result, Paterson has sent Passaic County government a pair of requests for an extra $8 million for city schools from the region’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds.

Along with seeking funding for the body temperature detectors, the school district also is looking for money to buy Chromebooks, “Promethean Boards” to facilitate hybrid instruction of students at home and in the classroom, personal protection equipment and machines to sanitize sports equipment.

“We are working to be as helpful as we can with our partners at the Board of Education,” said Mayor Andre Sayegh, “and we are in conversation with the county about possible funds.”

The Paterson school board plans to continue all virtual instruction for its 29,000 students through the end of October. In the middle of next month, the board says it will decide whether to launch a hybrid system with some students continuing with online learning and others coming in-person to schools.

The district already has hand-held devices and wall units that would allow staff members to conduct temperature checks for those entering the buildings. But that equipment checks one person at a time, while the walk-through monitors would allow multiple people to get checked at once, officials said.

School board president Kenneth Simmons said checking student one at a time would create a logistic nightmare.

“It would take hours,” he said. “You might as well not even try and just continue online.”

The board's vice president, Manny Martinez, said the walk-through monitors would be the best way to provide needed health protections for students.

Back in May, the school board opted to use a large portion of its $11.6 million in CARES Act money to plug a budget hole that officials said would have resulted in about 243 layoffs, including many teaching positions. The district also used several million dollars in the emergency funding to buy Chromebooks for home instruction for students whose families did not have their own electronic devices.

City officials said the county has additional money from the CARES Act that has not yet been distributed. But exactly how much is available and when it would be distributed remains uncertain, officials said.

Under the federal law, the funds must be spent by the end of December, officials said.

In addition to passing along the school district’s latest COVID-19 funding requests, the city has some of its own additional needs, such as buying ambulances, said Paterson Business Administrator Kathleen Long.

The Paterson City Council on Tuesday night awarded two contracts with health care providers for $780,000 worth of additional COVID-19 testing.

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