LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Jefferson County Public Schools expects to spend nearly $600 million in federal stimulus money in the coming years, but details of exactly how Kentucky’s largest school district will use those funds are still being finalized.
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio shared ideas of how his administration plans to spend the $578 million the district expects in the second and third rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief dollars passed by Congress during a Jefferson County Board of Education meeting Tuesday. Of that amount, $178 million has already been allocated for JCPS through the second round of federal stimulus funding.
JCPS has spent more than $35 million it received in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief money and the first round of ESSER funding, with nearly $25 million of those allocations dedicated toward technology and software.
Congress passed a series of stimulus bills during the COVID-19 pandemic, with money set aside to help public school districts and private school systems navigate the operational and academic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. Schools have until September 2022, September 2023 and September 2024 to spend the first, second and third rounds of federal stimulus aid, respectively.
JCPS plans to allocate portions of the money it receives in the third round of the federal stimulus directly to schools based on $150 for each student enrolled and more for those in categories like free and reduced-price meal recipients, minority students, disabled students and English-language learners, Pollio said, adding that he hoped to present the new formula to the board for its approval in December.
“We think this is going to be a great way for schools to provide extra innovation and support to students on the ground level,” he said, noting that school leaders will submit plans on how they want to spend their allotments.
JCPS schools will receive about $65 million in federal stimulus money through that funding formula, Chief Financial Officer Cordelia Hardin said.
Other funds in the second and third iterations of ESSER will be used to create more after-school learning opportunities for students, improve facilities’ ventilation systems and classrooms, provide more financial support for high-poverty schools, buy new technology and more under Pollio’s tentative proposal.
The board is expected to vote on a budget that details how federal stimulus dollars will be spent in July, Pollio said. JCPS plans to solicit input from stakeholder and community groups on ideas for the expected $400 million in stimulus money based on guidelines for the third round of ESSER funding.
Part of Pollio’s proposal calls for establishing student support centers in high-need areas of Jefferson County so children can meet with certified teachers and get needed wraparound services after school. He hopes to open centers first in west Louisville followed by Newburg and Smoketown, he said.
“I think we have the opportunity to build something with our student support and service centers with these funds that we can look back and say we truly made a difference,” Pollio said.
Technology is another central component of the district’s tentative proposal for its stimulus money. JCPS is installing interactive smartboards in every classroom and working to provide devices like Chromebooks for every student, officials said.
Distributing and connecting devices for students to use at their homes will be “a game changer” for JCPS, he said.
“We had to change the way we think about using technology because of this pandemic,” he said.
Diane Porter, the board’s chairperson who represents District 1, asked how JCPS planned to track academic progress after spending federal stimulus dollars.
“It’s great to have the money,” she said. “It’s wonderful, but at the end of the day how are we going to keep track of the academic accountability for our students in this district?”
Pollio said Measures of Academic Progress assessments given three times a school year would yield accurate views of students’ growth in core subjects and state tests would also give insight into where they stand academically.
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