PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia plans to invest millions into upgrading air quality systems in public schools with help from American Rescue Plan funding.
$250 million would come from American Rescue Plan aid allocated to the state, and a matching $250 million will come from American Rescue Plan and other relief funding distributed to local governments (about $939 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II funds went out to local school divisions this January and $1.9 billion was allocated to school divisions via the American Rescue Plan Act ESSER III).
The upgrades are key to preventing the spread of airborne illnesses in schools, particularly COVID-19, Gov. Ralph Northam says, as all schools are now required to allow in-person instruction. Northam made the announcement at Hopewell High School to kick off “Investment Week” to highlight proposals to spend the rescue plan money.
“This investment will help families, educators, and students feel more confident about the quality of the air they breathe as we return to in-person learning five days a week this fall,” Northam says.
Virginia was given $4.3 billion as part of the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11. Local governments in the commonwealth got $2.9 billion.
Northam’s office says the investment will allow for the completion of nearly all of the 463 currently planned HVAC projects across the commonwealth, which are set to cost $623 million.
School divisions will get a minimum of $200,000, and more based on the number of enrolled students.
The General Assembly will take up the spending proposal when it convenes August 2. Northam has also requested spending $353 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to help Virginia’s small businesses and $700 million to expand broadband access statewide.