Survey takers want $2M school grant spent on staffing

SOUTHWICK — The Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District is awaiting approval from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for a $2 million grant from the most recent COVID-19 relief package.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jenny Sullivan told the School Committee Tuesday evening that the grant money can be used on expenses related to COVID-19 and its impact for items from March 20, 2020, to June 30, 2024. She said the use of the funds requires that the district seeks input from the district community, which administrators did in the form of a survey.

Sullivan said that the main concern for parents and staff who completed the survey was making sure that the district has enough personnel. She said people were concerned about class sizes being too big, and making sure that the students are receiving a higher quality education.

Those surveyed also wanted to see better instructional materials and tutoring support for students, and better summer learning instruction for students who need it.

The American Rescue Plan Act included $122 billion in the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds (ESSER III), more than the previous two federal COVID-19 relief bills. One provision in the ESSER III funding is that 20 percent of funds must be used to address possible learning loss resulting from the pandemic.

Sullivan said that the intent is to hire multiple educational faculty members over the course of the next several years. This includes a first grade teacher, a kindergarten teacher and paraprofessional, math and reading interventionists, and summer school staff.

She said the district will also use some of the funds for COVID-19 mitigation measures, including cleaning supplies and masks. The district also plans on using the grant money for capital expenditures like replacing the district wi-fi network, upgrading the HVAC system at Woodland Elementary School, better announcement and communications systems, and expanded keycard access.

The School Committee voted unanimously to accept the intended use of the grant funds. The district is still waiting for approval from DESE.

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