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MADISON — School districts across the state were notified by the West Virginia Department of Education in late May 2021 regarding the American Rescue Plan: Elementary & Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Funding available to them beginning with the 2021-22 school term.

As per the WVDE, “the grant allocations are significant in amount and county school systems need to utilize this funding to initiate activities that will make significant pandemic recovery progress during the next three years.” The amount of funds allocated to Boone County Schools to be used in the three specific areas of learning recovery and innovation, health and safety, and infrastructure is $10,969,032.15.

Lisa Beck, Ed.D., interim superintendent of schools, shares that the award has an expiration date of Sept. 30 and carries with it specific mandates for planning and implementation of the grant funds to establish a focus for a short-term infusion of significant federal funding to impact long-term student success.

Specifically, the school system conducted a survey in late July to seek input from parents, staff, and community members on the expenditure of funds and also were required to present an overview of the plan to members of the WVDE to ensure that required set-asides for addressing learning loss, summer enrichment, and after-school programs were addressed.

Beck shared, “the district has received a preliminary grant award of 25% of the ARP:ESSERF allocation and with information gleaned from the public survey, initiatives and/or purchases have already started with the monies.”

She went on to say that over 60% of those completing the survey believed that additional after-school programs should be provided for students when responding to a list of suggested supports that would benefit students in “recovery of learning.” As follow-up to this feedback from various stakeholders, a new after-school program for middle schools will begin in mid-October at Madison Middle School, Sherman Jr. High School, and Van Jr. High. For several years, both high school and elementary students have had the opportunity for federally funded after-school programs to assist with remediation and credit recovery; however, programs for middle school students have not been available due to lack of funding.

Now with the special federal funds, middle school students will be afforded similar programs as well. When responding to the question of supports to assist with health and safety issues following the pandemic, 73% of the respondents requested the installation of air purifiers in the classrooms. Individual classroom air purifiers have been purchased for all schools with an anticipated delivery date of those devices to each school later this week.

The final steps for approval of the federal grant entails conducting a public comment period regarding feedback on the county’s plan. This public comment period began on Tuesday, Sept. 14 and continues through Thursday, Sept. 23.

Information regarding the federal budget for ARP:ESSERF Expenditures may be found on the district’s website at Parents, staff, and community members are encouraged to review the information and to submit comments to the superintendent’s office. The Boone County Schools’ ARP:ESSERF Budget is slated for review and possible approval by the members of the Boone County Board of Education at a work session planned for Monday, Sept. 27.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at 304-307-2401.

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