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Local schools receive federal funding

Last month, Congress passed the Coronavirus Relief Package, which will grant $900 million in federal funds to Alabama’s K-12 schools. Mark Bazzell, the superintendent of Pike County Schools, explained that the specific allocation for each school is unknown, but it will be about four times the size of the CARES Act.

“Our focus will be on assisting students,” Bazzell said. “We lost almost an entire second semester of school last year, and although our administrators and our faculty members have done a great job this year, we know that it hasn’t been optimal.”

Bazzell plans to use the bulk of the money from the relief package to provide direct assistance to the students, and the money will be put towards the needs in the classrooms to help provide support.

“We know that the next time we do our state assessments there will be a drop off in our achievement scores, which I think will happen across the state and the nation,” Bazzell said. “Our goal is to try to close the gap between where the students would be if there wasn’t a pandemic and where they are now because of it.”

Congress is expanding the list of different uses the money can be used for, and Bazzell explained Pike County Schools are already planning to establish before and after school instructional programs, to extend school days, and to extend summer school programs that will be more intense than the past summer school programs.

“Although we’ve done some planning, once we get the allocations and look at the specific criteria and limitations on what we can do with the money, we will come together and start formalizing the plans,” he said.

After Bazzell receives the results from the state assessments in the spring, he will be able to see how much the students have been impacted and will use the data to put in place the programs needed.

“For kindergarten students or high school students, there’s no substitute for face-to-face instruction. I’ve spoken with a lot of parents who have had real concerns about the impact on the children’s mental health, and we have virtual students who miss the socialization from traditional school,” Bazzell said. “We have supports in place for them, but I can see going forward that we will increase those services.”

Cynthia Thomas, the superintendent of Troy City Schools explained that the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), was signed into law on December 27, 2020 and provides an additional $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II Fund).

“Troy City School will use these funds to address learning gaps, to purchase more materials and supplies to help mitigate the spread of the virus, such as cleaning supplies, PPE items, etc.,” said Thomas.

Troy City Schools plan to implement activities related to summer learning and supplemental afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.

Thomas explained activities will be set up to address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, students of color, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth, including how outreach and service delivery will meet the needs of each population.

Troy City Schools will also work to provide mental health services and supports, will provide principals, teachers, and other school leaders with resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools, will continue to train and develop staff of the district on sanitation to minimize the spread of the virus.

Thomas will also be working with the schools to plan for and coordinate during long-term closures and to create coordination of preparedness and response efforts.With the first round of Covid Relief funds, Troy City Schools were able to purchase additional Chromebooks. “This second round of Covid Relief funds will give us the opportunity to purchase more for online learning if needed,” Thomas said. “We will also provide more professional development that may be needed for our faculty and staff.”