Kosciusko and Attala County school districts have determined how they will spend more than $1 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding they are eligible to receive in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kosciusko district can receive up to $709,537, while the Attala County district is eligible for up to $387,959 to address the most pressing local educational needs.
Kosciusko School District
The bulk of Kosciusko’s funding — $274,115 — will be used to continue the district’s Pre-K program for the 2020-21 academic year. In prior years, the program had been funded in large part by grants from the Barksdale Reading Institute, but that funding expired at the end of the last academic year.
“Our state funding this year left us with a $580,000 shortfall, so the funding was not available and our only choice was to take this money out of our fund balance,” said Superintendent Billy Ellzey. “The ESSER funds are used to offset these shortfalls and keep us from having to use as much of our fund balance. The amount designated for Pre-K from ESSER funds is in line with money we received from the state last year for Pre-K, but we are not receiving this year.”
In addition to helping fund the Pre-K program, Ellzey said the funds will be used to address several other issues directly related to the pandemic’s effect on local education.
— The district will hire a lead teacher to provide intervention to close the achievement gap.
— A school nurse will be hired to monitor student and staff wellness, assist school staff in having schools operate during the pandemic, provide care to students with special healthcare needs and provide insight on student mental health and well-being and its role in student achievement.
— Provide funding allowing teachers to earn their certificates in Google Classroom.
— Update the district website to accommodate student virtual learning and communication with virtual student families.
— Pay a supplement to teacher assistants to serve as bus monitors taking student temperatures at bus stops.
— Implement the summer learning plan by offering credit recovery to students.
— A portion is also set aside for technology
“The money in ESSER funds is used as a whole to offset our deficits while increasing our cleaning and disinfecting supplies, as well as increasing technology. We do expect more federal funds that will allow for even more technology in the future,” said Ellzey.
Attala County School District
According to Superintendent Kyle Hammond, the Attala County School District plans to spend its allocation — $387,959 — as follows:
— $83,033.90 for document cameras and microphones to record classroom instruction. In addition, an online instructional video library will also be purchased for parents and students to utilize during distance learning.
— $63,123.97 will be spent on internet access point utilities at each school campus and five fire stations to support distance learning.
— $109,231.94 will be spend on salary and benefits for two interventionists, one at each high school.
— $52,145 will be spent on professional development services for all staff in the district.
— $80,424.19 will be spent on safety and sanitation supplies for all schools needed to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Supplies will be distributed to all schools in an effort to provide all staff and students with a safe learning environment.
Both districts are expected to meet the Aug. 28 deadline for submitting their plans for approval in an effort to receive the maximum funding for which they are eligible.
ADDITIONAL FUNDS FORTHCOMING
Both districts are also applying for additional funding available through the Mississippi Department of Education Equity in Distance Learning program, which was approved by the state legislature through Senate Bill 3044.
Districts must match the funds received at a rate of 20% and the devices the state will provide under this program are expected to be available by November.
According to Hammond, the Attala County School District has completed its plan for an Equity in Distance Learning allocation of $283,904. It will be used as follows:
— 475 Chromebooks for students at a cost of $400 each, for a total allocation of $190,000
— 110 Windows laptop computers for teachers at a cost of $600 each for a total allocation of $66,000
— 1,100 seat licenses for Instructure Canvas learning management system at a cost of $7 per seat, for a total allocation of $7,700
The Kosciusko School District has not completed a plan as yet, but is expected to apply for the maximum allowed under the program. According to Ellzey, district staff will meet later this week to finalize its plan, which will be submitted prior to the Sept. 1 filing deadline.
Yet another pool of monies will likely be made available to local districts through the Mississippi Pandemic Response Broadband Availability Grant Program under House Bill 1788, but the MDE has not released the district-by-district allocations available under this program at this time.