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Money Available for K-12 California Schools Reopening Amid COVID-19

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There are two critical sources of state COVID-related grant funding, available early in 2021, intended to help K-12 California schools reopen safely amidst the ongoing pandemic. These funds are earmarked for numerous aspects of the re-opening process, including HVAC upgrades that will allow for improved ventilation, better air quality tracking, and improved energy efficiency (EE). These programs include:

  • SRVEVR (“Sir Vevver”) – School Reopening Ventilation and Energy Efficiency Verification and Repair Program
  • Proposition 98 – An existing program with $2 billion added to 2021 budget earmarked for COVID re-opening expenses {Jump to details on Proposition 98}

Key Features for K-12 California Schools Reopening Funding

  • Program details are not finalized. Expected funds to be released are $200 million in 2021 by the SRVEVR program and $2 billion by Prop98. Early action is key to securing funds.
  • The SRVEVR program will fund some heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system improvements based on program criteria and expects to begin fund disbursement for Phase 1 May 1, 2021. Phase 1 funds will be reserved for schools in underserved communities. Funds will be available on a first-come-first serve basis. Projects must be conducted and verified by qualified professionals.
  • Prop98 will fund any expenditure that supports in-person instruction with funds expected to be available beginning February 16, 2021. Schools must meet in-person instruction deadlines to be eligible for full funding unless located in a county with a ‘high rate of community spread’. Dates may change based on county risk levels.

SRVEVR Program Overview

This 3-year program is part of the School Energy Efficiency Stimulus (SEES) and shall provide funding to local educational agencies (LEA) for the reasonable costs of HVAC assessment, general maintenance and adjustment, filter replacement, and carbon dioxide monitor installation as well as certain repairs, replacements, and other improvements to HVAC systems. SRVEVR will first prioritize investments at schools in underserved communities and those near freeways or industrial facilities where proper ventilation is critical.

Funding

  • Expected 2021 Funding is $200 million.
  • Approved grants will be paid 50% up front (upon request) and 50% after final project completion.
  • 25% of funding must go to school districts in underserved communities, described below. “Phase 1” funding will be exclusive to these underserved schools.
  • Funding is on a site-by-site basis and funds from one site may not be transferred to another site.
  • Districts may apply for grant funding based on contractor’s estimates for eligible project scope. Estimates must be gathered through public bidding and contracting procedures.
  • Grant amount will include an extra 20% contingency per site for additional repairs, replacements, or upgrades that improve energy efficiency. Additional EE funding may be available upon request.

Timeline

  • January 20, 2021 – CEC Issued their SRVEVR Program Draft Guidelines
  • February 1, 2021 – Large IOUs must jointly file their advice letter to the CPUC for review, including proposed funding.
  • March 1, 2021 – CPUC must approve advice letter to initiate program.
  • April 2021 – CEC expects to issue ‘Final’ program guidelines.
  • May 1, 2021 – Fund disbursement begins.
  • August 1, 2020 – Projects contracted after this date may be eligible for retroactive funding.
  • December 1, 2026 – Deadline for final expenditures.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Eligibility is determined on a site-by-site basis. Each participating site must meet the following criteria:
    • Project site must receive one or more utilities from PG&E, SCE, SDG&E, or SCG (not municipal utilities).
    • Phase 1 funding will be limited to only schools in underserved communities (defined in SRVEVR Program Definitions). It is unknown when the next phase will open.
    • LEA must own the site, lease from a school district, or have a lease term that exceeds the useful life of the project. 
  • Applications will be reviewed on a first-come-first-serve basis, and there is no guarantee that funding is available for all LEAs. Early action is key to securing maximum funding!
  • LEAs must implement ALL project requirements specified in the SRVEVR guidelines. There will be no payment issued for the partial completion of the project requirements and CEC will claw back any up-front funding given for partially-completed projects.
  • HVAC assessments, adjustments, and repairs must be conducted by qualified testing personnel and final reporting must be verified by a licensed professional. Please refer to the Definitions section for details on these requirements.
  • Funds cannot be used for consultant assistance of any kind including application assistance, DSA submittal, etc.
  • Grant recipients have 24 months to implement the HVAC modifications and complete final program reporting.
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Recent Updates

The CEC issued SRVEVR Revised Draft Guidelines on March 19, 2021. Key updates include:

  • School districts may use consultants to help with the application process but may not use grant funding to pay for consultant services of any kind. Districts must therefore pay out-of-pocket for any consultant assistance.
  • Revised LEA sizing tiers from four tiers to three. Smallest tier is <1,000 students and largest tier is now >5,000 students.
  • Adjusted funding allocations to align with new tiers. General impact is an increase in funding allocation for large LEAs >5,000 students.
  • Removed prioritization for school sites close to freeways and factories. Prioritization now based strictly on underserved community status of the site.
  • Increased number of applications from one to three per funding round. First round remains reserved for sites in underserved communities.
  • Despite objections from many districts, the requirement to add CO2 sensors to all classrooms remains a requirement of receiving grant funding.
  • Added a requirement to include monthly electric data in the HVAC Assessment Report.
  • Extended deadline to complete the work and submit final documentation from 21 months to 24 months.
  • Added numerous self-certifications that the LEA is required to provide with the grant application package. Of particular note is the requirement that the LEA will obtain Division of the State Architect (DSA) project approval as applicable to the project scope.
  • Requires LEAs to adhere to their bidding and public contracting requirements in obtaining the contractor estimate used to establish the grant amount. Contractor estimate in its original form must be submitted with the application.
  • Clarified that contingency funds may only be used to complete work identified in the HVAC Assessment and Verification Reports as necessary to make the HVAC system functional or more energy efficient, and may not be used to pay for consultant fees or portable equipment.
  • Clarified that funds, including contingency funds, must be spent on the site where they were awarded and cannot be transferred to another site.
  • Specified that all project requirements specified in the guidelines must be completed to receive grant funding. There will be no payment issued for the partial completion of the project requirements. Funding, including contingency, shall be returned to the SRVEVR program if not spent on eligible measures or if the project requirements are left only partially complete.
  • Added section specifying ineligible costs, including:
    • Costs incurred outside the terms of the grant agreement
    • Purchase of equipment not an integral part of the project
    • Replacement of existing funding sources for ongoing programs
    • Costs stemming from DSA accessibility requirements
    • Consultant fees
  • Added description of DSA Review requirements and encourages LEAs to consider these requirements early in the planning process and to contact their DSA regional office.

Additional Resources       

CEC SRVEVR Program Website  

Recommended Next Steps

  • Review all school sites in your district and determine if any meet any of the underserved communities criteria (described under program definitions). If so, these schools will be prioritized for Phase 1 funding. We recommend focusing efforts on these sites first.
  • Review program eligibility criteria in the Revised Staff Draft SRVEVR Program Guidelines. Keep in mind this document is a draft and will change.
  • If you have hardware needs/failures pertaining to your ventilation systems and your buildings are currently occupied, then address those issues immediately. To enable retro-active grant funding from the SRVEVR program, ensure that you address these issues in accordance with the SRVEVR eligibility requirements.
  • Contact your local DSA office to confirm your existing buildings are suitably certified, and to determine what, if any, components of the HVAC modifications may require DSA review.
  • Compile and review data on existing HVAC systems, including:
  • Mechanical drawings and equipment schedules for each campus.
  • Most recent Test and Balance (TAB) reports for each HVAC system. These reports are often generated during modernization and new construction projects and included in the project turn-over documentation.
  • List of classrooms at each site, and whether there is an existing CO2 sensor and/or thermostat in those classrooms. If so, record make, model, and capabilities.
  • Existing air filters for each HVAC system or unit. Data should include MERV rating, ordering number, dimensions, and quantity.
  • Any known deficiencies in HVAC operations including ability to properly and efficiently ventilate, heat, and/or cool the space.
  • Contact your preferred mechanical service provider or TAB contractor to inquire about their capability to support the SRVEVR program. Specifically, ask if they have an in-house Title 24 Mechanical Certified Acceptance Test Technician or if they have a technician certified by the Associated Air Balancing Council (AABC), the National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB), or the Testing, Adjusting, and Balancing Bureau (TABB). The testing and balancing work must be at least supervised by a technician with one of these certifications.
  • Contact your preferred A&E, Mechanical Engineer, or Energy Efficiency consultant to inquire about their capability to support the SRVEVR program. An appropriate professional license (e.g. mechanical PE) is required to conduct the SRVEVR review of the TAB results and HVAC Assessment Report and provide a list of corrective actions. kW Engineering has multiple licensed professionals capable of conducting this review should you have need.
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Proposition 98 – In-Person Instruction Grants

Proposition 98 was instituted in 1988 and established a minimum funding level for public schools in the state budget. This year, the governor has added $2 billion to the Prop98 fund for the express purpose of facilitating safe K-12 California schools reopening. Funds may be used for any purpose that supports in-person instruction, including:

  • Enhancing and expanding COVID-19 testing.
  • Purchasing personal protective equipment.
  • Improving ventilation and the safety of indoor or outdoor learning spaces.
  • Teacher or classified staff salaries for those providing and supporting in-person instruction.
  • Social and mental health support services provided in conjunction with in-person instruction.

Funding

  • Total Funding – $2 billion.
  • Funding/pupil – $450-$700.
  • Funding per pupil varies based on need. Districts with high enrollment of low-income students, youth in foster care, and English language learners will receive higher levels of funding.

Timeline

  • February 2021 – Funds available to districts.
  • Timeline for K-12 California Schools Reopening:
    • February 16th, 2021 – Deadline for schools to begin offering in-person instruction for all TK-2nd grade students, all students with disabilities, youth in foster care, homeless youth, and students without access to technology or high-speed internet.*
    • March 15th, 2021 – Deadline for schools to begin offering in-person instruction for 3rd-6th grade students.*
  • *NOTE – Re-opening dates are subject to County Health Department guidance to schools.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Schools must meet the in-person instruction deadlines above to be eligible for full funding, unless located in a county with “high rate of community spread”.
  • Schools with later start dates will qualify for a proportionally lower base grant, except those in counties with high rates of community spread.
  • Schools in counties with high rates of community spread will be eligible for the full February grant amount if they open for in-person instruction pursuant to state and local health guidance once county rates decline. Current risk level in your county can be found here.
  • Schools will be required to complete a COVID-19 School Safety Plan in compliance with state Department of Public Health and occupational health safety requirements.

Additional Resources       

Recommended Next Steps

  • Develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan in accordance with CDC and county health requirements. These requirements are outlined in the ‘Stronger Together’ guidebook. At-a-glance, the COVID-19 safety plan categories include:
    • Local conditions to guide reopening decisions.
    • Plan to address positive COVID-19 cases or community surges.
    • Injury and Illness Prevention Plan.
    • Campus Access.
    • Hygiene.
    • Protective Equipment.
    • Physical Distancing.
    • Cleaning/Disinfecting.
    • Employee Issues.
    • Communication with students, parents, employees, public health officials, and the community.
  • If your schools are currently closed, monitor county COVID-19 Risk Level Status here and in conjunction with your county health department. Your COVID-19 Safety Plan should be ready to submit for grant approval as soon as Risk Level drops to 5 and county health department issues notice allowing re-opening.
  • Prioritize COVID mitigation efforts based on your district’s greatest needs or shortfalls compared to the COVID-19 safety plan.
  • Calculate total expected funding by multiplying the per-pupil funding by your total enrollment. For a conservative initial estimate, we recommend assuming you will receive $450 per student. 
  • Solicit bids or contractor estimates to approximate costs for each mitigation effort.
  • Compile rough costs of all mitigation efforts and compare to total expected funding.
  • If mitigation effort costs exceed total funding, seek additional federal, state, or local grant money (including the SRVEVR program above) to make-up the difference.

Moving Forward K-12 California Schools Reopening

What we know about these programs, the virus and its transmission is constantly changing. We continue to monitor the latest developments and adjust our guidance as needed to reflect current conditions. If you’d like to discuss our latest recommendations or available funding, please get in touch.

If you’re interested in additional free tools to calculate the risk of COVID-19 spread through ventilation or the impacts of adjusting outside air rates in your HVAC system, check out our COVID-19 page for more details.

Note

We provided our summary and assessment based on the information available on these dates:

  • SRVEVR – Revised Staff Draft Guidelines – Published March 19th, 2021
  • Proposition 98 – 2021-22 Governor’s Budget – Resealed January 8th, 2021

Both programs are still in development and final program details may change. We will strive to keep you updated on any significant changes. 

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