ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Public schools in New Mexico have been closed for weeks and are going to stay closed for the rest of the academic year.
While it’s hard to get a full picture at this point of the financial impact this has on the state’s largest district, Albuquerque Public Schools is expected to save on energy bills since lights and air conditioning aren’t running in buildings as normal.
According to the school district, since the mid-March, energy use in elementary and middle schools have gone down about 42%. In K-8 and high schools, the average reduction is about 36%. If this continues through June, the district projects it may save just under $900,000 in energy bills.
The district isn’t expecting to save as much in water and gas bills, partly since water is still being used as normal to irrigate fields. The pandemic is still bringing unexpected costs.
“There are costs involved with the food services for example. We’ve shifted from a model of having kids in cafeterias to this grab-and-go. It just changes the way you spend the money. It modifies the expenses,” said Scott Elder, Chief Operations Officer for APS.
Elder said they also have to buy gloves and hand sanitizers in amounts they didn’t anticipate. “There are certain tasks that have to occur and we’re doing that. There’s costs with that, that’s just the reality. So, we’re trying to manage that money as well and as efficiently as we can in really difficult times,” said Elder.
One of the biggest unexpected costs was buying 18,000 Chromebooks for students to be able to learn at home. The district spent a total of $6.5 million to purchase, set up, and deliver those devices.
Elder said the money comes from the mill-levy passed in late 2019. He said the Chromebooks didn’t add costs, but changed the way they used that money. “There was some mill-levy money that was going to be invested in technology over six years. We had to accelerate that a little bit to provide the Chromebooks for the students. The idea was to buy them anyways, so we ended up buying a lot of them in one year instead of spreading it out over two or three,” Elder explained.
He said this accelerated use may impact other projects down the line, such as a construction project. APS said partnerships with local and state officials have helped them a lot, like providing internet access to students through the WIFI on Wheels program.
“We’re thankful for all the support we’ve gotten from city government, state government, and all our community partners because this is something we have to solve together,” said Elder.