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Benton school starts a week late due to supply chain issues

It's still July but many families are already planning for back to school. One district in our area is pushing back its start date due to supply chain issues.

BENTON, Pa. — Students in the Benton Area School District can thank global supply chain issues for giving them a few extra days of summer vacation.

The school district pushed back the first day of school about a week. The HVAC project is taking longer than anticipated.

"And just by the time they're manufactured and the backlog, we are now very well assured that they are manufactured, and they are on their way. We were just going to run out of time," James Geffken said.

Upgrading its aging HVAC systems had been on the district's to-do list for quite some time. So when federal money became available for expressly that purpose, it was a no-brainer. 

Unfortunately, plenty of other schools also took advantage of money from the "ESSER" fund or the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund.

The pandemic caused districts to take a fresh look at their air quality.

"The good [of] this ESSER money is that it's addressing a lot of these HVAC issues in public buildings. The bad is there's not a global infrastructure to supply the amount of HVAC equipment that's being demanded right now. But as a small school district, we have to take advantage of the funding. And we're going to use this money that would've been local taxpayers' burden," Geffken said.

Parts were ordered back in March, and work was expected to wrap up in early June.

Once it became clear that it wasn't going to happen, superintendent Geffken decided to err on the side of caution and give parents plenty of time to make childcare arrangements.

The project is supposed to be finished by the new first day of school.

"And it changes, we'll change. We're not going to bring the kids back into a situation that's not at least satisfactory for them to be okay and healthy," Geffken said.

That decision will be made by August 1.

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