It turns out that pandemics are very expensive and labor intensive for school systems – and it looks like that’s about to become even more so.

On Thursday, Oct. 21, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners will vote on whether to use about $3 million in federal pandemic relief funds to grant a request from county health officials that would mean hiring 50 full-time “School Health COVID-19 Coordinators.”

Those coordinators would work to help contain the virus in schools by doing things like contact tracing and supporting virus testing efforts.

While the positions would be full-time while they last, they would be “temporary” positions expected to go away at some point in the future.

In mid-September, the Board of Commissioners accepted $7.9 million in state and federal funds to battle COVID-19 and the board also accepted the guidelines that control the use of that money.

Information provided to the commissioners in their agenda packets states “Public Health is now requesting approval to hire up to fifty (50) full-time, time-limited, School Health COVID-19 Coordinators, using a portion of these approved funds for contact tracing and testing activities in the schools.”

The estimated cost to fund the 50 COVID-19 coordinator positions is $2.8 million for the current school year.

 The Board of Commissioners has also been adding more school nurse positions to the Guilford County school system in response to the pandemic, and the board is also expected to add more school nurses at its October 21 meeting when the board will likely add the 50 COVID-19 coordinators.

A vote to approve the coordinator positions on October 21 is almost a certainty because items of this nature rarely make it onto the commissioners’ agenda unless there’s an understanding that the votes are there to approve it.  Current Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, who approves the the agenda, is quite adept at knowing ahead of time how votes will come out.

The COVID-19 coordinators “will assist in enabling schools to establish and expand COVID-19 screening testing programs to support and maintain in-person learning.”

This funding has an initial end date of May 31 of next year, however, that date could be extended.