WESTFIELD — Westfield schools are asking the public for advice on how to spend millions of dollars in federal pandemic-related aid.
“We sent the survey to all families, all staff, to [the Westfield Education to Business Alliance] and posted it on the Facebook page,” said Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski. “We want the community as a whole to take that survey. It helps guide us in terms of where the priorities are for where the funding should go.”
Westfield Public Schools has been promised $10,784,275 from the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grants (ESSER III), part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act. Although the funds have been reserved for Westfield, the district still must apply for the ESSER III grant. The application is due Oct. 1, and the three-year grant period will run through Sept. 30, 2024.
The purpose of the relief funds is to allow districts and schools to safely reopen and sustain safe operations over the next three years. Priorities to be addressed include the academic, social, emotional and mental health needs of all students, and particularly those disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. One requirement of the funding is that each district set aside 20 percent of the allocation to address lost instructional time. Other allowable uses of the funds include school facility repairs and improvements (specifically related to reducing virus transmission and exposure), supplies to sanitize and clean buildings, and educational technology.
The questions on the survey primarily ask which of these allowable areas the respondent thinks are the most important priorities as the district responds to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey is taken anonymously, but asks respondents to identify which group they belong to, such as student, parent/guardian, administrator, teacher, other school staff, stakeholder representing interests of a certain group of students, or a community member. The survey is available in English, Arabic, Nepali, Russian and Spanish.
“We are asking for your feedback through this survey so that the priorities of the community are understood as the district moves forward with its application for the ARP ESSER funds,” Czaporowski wrote in the announcement of the survey, which was sent out Sept. 15.
The survey is posted at www.schoolsofwestfield.org and will close on Sept. 22, to give the district time to compile the responses before the ESSER III application is due.
“We encourage people to participate as we value stakeholder feedback,” Czaporowski said.
ESSER III will be the third installment of federal pandemic relief grants for the district. ESSER I, which was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020, granted $1,206,385 for Westfield from July 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2022, and is being used for transportation costs, summer programs and HVAC control work at Westfield Middle School and Westfield Intermediate School. Barry said a proportionate share of the grant was given to St. Mary’s for technology and COVID safety supplies.
ESSER II, authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of December 2020, contained $4,808,471 for Westfield, from July 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2023. It is paying for salaries for the principal, teachers, secretary, nurse and for supplies for the Virtual K-8 school. ESSER II will also fund a health supervisor, 504 (special education) coordinator, supervisor of counseling and social emotional learning, eight new school adjustment counselors, tutoring services, phone and intercom systems at Highland Elementary School and Westfield High School, and HVAC control work.