G’ville pinpoints stimulus funding priorities

The Greenville Central School District has submitted its plans for use of the federal COVID-19 stimulus funds. File photo

GREENVILLE — Technology purchases, enhanced tutoring, a social worker and facility upgrades are among the expenses planned for the Greenville Central School District with federal COVID-19 stimulus funds.

The district will receive $3,680,082 through two stimulus packages, including $990,850 through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, signed into law Dec. 27, 2020, and $2,689,232 through the American Rescue Plan, enacted March 11, 2021.

The district was required to submit its plan for the funds to the state this week, District Superintendent Tammy Sutherland told the board of education at its July 12 meeting.

The American Rescue Plan funds have stipulations that certain percentages of the funds must be allocated to address learning loss that students sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic and remote instruction.

The goal of the plan was to ensure the funds are allocated in a way that aligns with the district’s vision and the federal government’s allowable uses for the funds, Sutherland said.

“Is it addressing an identified need, enhancing an existing activity and is it an innovative step forward?” Sutherland said. “One very important thing is can we sustain this expense when the federal funds expire. That is very important to keep our eye on what is an ongoing expense that we will have to sustain and have a plan for sustaining, versus what will be a one-time expense.”

The district submitted a spending plan that breaks down expenditures into five main categories — academic programs and opportunities; technology; developing the capacity of leaders, teachers and staff; enhancing the delivery of social-emotional supports; and district facilities.

“We are looking at a multi-year spending plan, looking at one-time expenses, three-year expenses and then those ongoing expenses.” Sutherland said. “We want to make sure what we believe are ongoing expenses and how we can sustain that.”

Funds allocated through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act must be spent by Sept. 30, 2023, and American Rescue Plan funds must be used by Sept. 30, 2024.

The plans can change if needed, with amendments submitted to the state, Sutherland said.

“The plans are flexible and fluid and we know this is a three-year spending plan — things are going to change,” she said. “In no way is this a concrete plan that is not changeable.”

The largest allocation of funds — $1,278,213 — will go toward academic programs under the district’s plan. The plan includes several new positions including a reading interventionist and math interventionist for three years.

“These are two areas to support learning loss and to help kids catch up as quickly as they possibly can,” Sutherland said.

A speech pathologist would also be hired under the plan, an ongoing appointment that would have to be funded in the district budget once the federal stimulus funds expire.

“This is an increased need that we have. We have incoming special education students that are really high needs that will need four to five sessions a week,” Sutherland said. “Unless things change, I see this as an ongoing needed expense.”

Academic supports such as high-intensity tutoring, summer school — which has 152 students in attendance this year — after-school handwriting assistance and enrichment opportunities such as field trips, assemblies, workshops and clubs for students, among others.

The second largest category under the plan is for teacher, faculty and staff development, including professional development programming.

“This estimated cost is $913,197. A business is people and it is people that are teaching our students so we want to make sure we invest in our teachers so that we can do the best for our students,” she said.

Technology purchases and improvements account for $417,408 of the allocated stimulus funds, including the purchase of 100 Chromebooks for students to replace obsolete and broken devices and to serve as spare equipment, eight SmartBoards — an interactive high-tech screen that supports classroom learning — and two outdoor SmartBoards to facilitate classes held in the campus’ courtyard and pavilion, Sutherland said.

Other technology purchases would include supplies such as headphones and wireless mice, livestreaming equipment and a cybersecurity software program. Infrastructure upgrades would include an updated phone system for the district and wireless infrastructure upgrades.

“This is a one-time expense,” Sutherland said. “We are looking to make sure that we have Wi-Fi access outside throughout the entire campus.”

Social-emotional supports — at a cost of $242,699 — would hire a social worker for three years, an expense that will be reviewed annually to determine if there is an ongoing need in the district.

The district currently supports students with a team of school psychologists and school counselors, so the social worker would be a new addition to the staff.

The final category, improvements to district facilities, account for an estimated $828,885 of the funding.

Upggrades to ventilation in small office spaces and a fitness room are planned. One area of interest expressed by district teachers and others was for outdoor learning and eating spaces.

Funds will be allocated to build a patio with a shade covering at the middle/high school library, and a pavilion. The courtyard at the elementary school would be renovated with new concrete and a shade covering. A new building floor scrubber will be purchased to improve cleaning and disinfection capabilities.

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