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Letter to the Editor: How RSD17 plans to spend $451,000 in COVID relief funds

The views stated here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of this newspaper. We welcome supporting or opposing views on any published item. Received September 30, 2021.

As a candidate for RSD17 Board of Education, I believe it is essential to provide timely and accurate information to our community. An informed community is a strong community.

In the last 18 months, Congress passed three stimulus bills. The first in March 2020, the second in December 2020, and the third in March 2021. Just as families received stimulus payments, our school system received funds to cover costs associated with the pandemic.

Background on School Stimulus

Collectively, school funds from these bills are referred to as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER).

  • March 2020: ESSER I focused on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), totaling $45,545 for HK.
  • December 2020: ESSER II, totaling $201,928, to cover costs of PPE, address learning loss, and provide resources for additional educational programming.
  • March 2021: ESSER III (or ARP ESSER), totaling $451,000 to mitigate learning loss, provide afterschool and summer programming, and supplement the overall services of the district.

Given the size of ARP ESSER, I’m going to focus on the use of these funds.

So, how did HK decide to use the $451,000 in ARP ESSER funds?

Here’s an overview:

  • $308,722 on salaries to hire: 1.5 Reading Interventionists for grades K-5; 2.0 Math Interventionists for grades K-12; 1.0 Social Worker for grades 9-12
  • $113,945 on benefits associated with the added positions (see bullet one)
  • $25,832 on supplies, including: HS and MS Social-Emotional Curriculum; Literacy materials for Pre-K; enhancements to Wifi network
  • $2,600 on a social media and internet safety presentation for grades 4-12 students and families

These funds can be spent through September 2024.

My Take:

The vast majority of these funds go to support core instruction for our kids. Adding 1.5 Reading Interventionists in the early grades helps ensure that our students have the necessary literacy skills to thrive in grades 6-12. Additionally, with the notable drop in math performance, adding 2.0 math interventionists is a sign that HK is following the data, and allocating resources to address areas for growth.

Finally, COVID’s impact on student well being has been significant. By adding a social worker to the district, we’re able to help students before they fall into crisis.

My Hope: RSD17 Board of Education provides periodic (every two meetings), public discussion and tracking of ESSER funds and their impact on student achievement, both academically and social-emotionally. And, if we have to make course corrections, be honest and open with the public about the necessary shifts.

Hamish MacPhail
Board of Education candidate
Higganum

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