MILFORD — The projected COVID-related expenses for Milford Public Schools has dropped $8 million from the original estimate delivered just two months ago, according to Chief Operations Officer Jim Richetelli.

At Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, Richetelli said the total projected expenses for Milford was $3.7 million. The original total projected expenses, given on July 27, was $11.2 million. Of the projected $3.7 million in expenses, about $2.4 million is covered by state and federal grants, and by allocating unspent funds from last year’s budget.

Richetelli attributed the huge drop in expected costs to having a better handle on the situation.

“In July and August, we were giving you the very worst case scenario,” he said. “We really didn’t know who we would be able to hire. We didn’t know the number of people out there that would be available to us. We don’t need as many certified and non-certified people in the classrooms.”

Superintendent of Schools Anna Cutaia said the lower number should be applauded.

“We looked at every resource in district to try and bring that number down,” she said.

The school system saved money by not hiring an additional full-time custodian to keep up with the intensified COVID-related cleaning schedule.

“We are achieving what we need to achieve as far as sanitizing and cleaning,” Richetelli said.

Also, the isolation rooms, where students suspected of carrying COVID-19 are isolated pending pickup by their parents, is staffed with existing employees, supplemented by hourly off-duty paramedics and ambulance drivers instead of having a dedicated room monitor. The schools budgeted $126,000 for the isolation rooms.

Other major COVID-related expenses included hiring 4.5 full-time equivalent teachers at nearly $300,000, and budgeting for 24 substitute. The schools budgeted $427,000 for substitutes, who are in short supply this year, Richetelli said.

The rest of the expenses are for additional Chromebooks, strengthened internet connectivity and 210 mobile hot spots that were distributed to students without access to reliable internet connection at home.

Milford Public Schools will continue to operate on a Tier 1 instructional model. Tier 1 involves all students in school four days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday is a full day of distance learning.

According to Cutaia, there are five key indicators considered when making a decision on the appropriate instructional model: health metrics, social/emotional needs, academic priorities, availability of resources, and human resources.

“Based on the current analysis of these five factors, it is warranted to remain in Tier 1,” Cutaia said.

For more information on this model, see the Restart 2020-2021 Milford Public Schools Plan Handbook.

sfox@milfordmirror.com