Some public and charter schools across the state of Michigan opted to spend federal pandemic relief funds on non-COVID-related goods such as playground equipment and, in one instance, a smoothie bar, according to an analysis conducted by the Detroit Free Press.
Schools statewide received a total of $6 billion in federal pandemic relief funds, designated to schools via the 2020 CARES Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Action (CRRSA), and the American Rescue Plan.
Under the direction of federal funding laws, schools were given the ability to decide how they want to spend their money. Congress stipulated that the money help schools reopen safely and that districts spend approximately 20 percent of the American Rescue Plan funds to combat learning loss. Money from the American Rescue Plan must be spent by 2024, according to the bill.
District leaders in Michigan reportedly told the Detroit Free Press that spending COVID funds on athletics, nutrition, metal detectors, and other non-COVID-related items “fit[s] under the broad umbrella of student well-being.”
Per the Free Press document review, the most common non-COVID-related spending in Michigan included security equipment, athletics, playground equipment, and infrastructure improvements.
A Ball Pit, a Food Truck, Metal Detectors: Michigan Schools Using COVID Cash on Non-Pandemic-Related Items
— Choice Media (@ChoiceMediatv) April 11, 2022
Hope Academy, a K-8 charter school in Detroit, proposed using federal funds on security equipment and cameras. The district argues that it would use the cameras to “assist in the process of contact tracing (as needed) as well as to monitor the daily adherence to COVID-19 procedures and protocols at the school level,” according to the Free Press.
Hope Academy did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.
River Rouge School District proposed using at least $340,000 of the $16 million the district received on athletics, playgrounds, and “wellness spending.” Per River Rouge’s spending plan, $10,000 is allotted for a “nutrition room” that would “provide smoothies and other essential drinks to support the additional calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and a host of other essential nutrients for student athletes participating in rigorous after school athletics conditioning and programming.”
The district proposed an additional $120,000 to buy a food truck for a “mobile culinary arts program” for high school students and $200,000 for new playground equipment. (RELATED: Inspector General: COVID Relief Programs Were ‘Invitation’ To Fraudsters)
Kalamazoo Public Schools is among the districts that proposed spending money on security equipment. Of the $60 million the district received, Kalamazoo Public Schools intends to purchase three metal detectors estimated at approximately $8,000 each, and six X-ray machines estimated to cost $22,000 per machine.
Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri was unable to explain to the Free Press why the X-ray machines or metal detectors could help fight COVID. Raichoudhuri did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.
Other notable districts include L’Anse Area Schools, located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which plans to spend nearly $93,000 on new outdoor tennis courts. The district argues that it provides more options for outdoor activities, though temperatures in northern Michigan are cold during much of the school year.
Some schools opted to use federal funds to make much-needed infrastructure and building improvements. Detroit Public Schools Community District received $1.2 billion in federal funding and proposed using nearly $700,000 for a new building project.