The Forest Park Elementary School Board reviewed a plan for spending remaining federal stimulus funds at its Aug. 11 meeting.
All three federal COVID-19 stimulus funding packages included funds for schools that were distributed through the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). District 91 has already spent its ESSER 1 funds — money from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), the first stimulus package. In order to spend the funding for the two remaining stimulus plans, it is necessary to release the plans at a public meeting and give residents an opportunity to comment. The Illinois State Board of Education approves or denies the plan. ESSER II funds must be committed by September 2023 and ESSER III funds must be committed by September 2024.
District 91 is offering to spend the money to help pay for summer school, student tutoring and other support services. The money would also be used to improve air conditioning at Field-Stevenson, 925 Beloit Ave., and Grant-White, 147 Circle Ave., elementary school buildings, replace Chromebooks and other student devices, and fund training teachers and the “university of parents”. certification programs. While council members did not oppose the plan as a whole, they asked district administrators to come back with a more detailed breakdown of how the money would be spent and how many expenses were directly related to the effects of the pandemic.
According to the presentation by Dr. Robert Hubbird, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations, the district spent $186,259 in ESSER I funds to cover the salaries of summer school teachers and teaching assistants, to pay for technology to facilitate the distance learning, to cover the cost of subscriptions to online distance learning services and to pay for cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment.
Hubbird said that for $703,107 in ESSER II funds, the district plans to spend $75,825 to purchase 116 replacement Chromebooks, $390,280 to continue paying the four instructional coaches the district has hired to combat the loss. learning opportunities, a total of $127,000 to cover summer school and after-school “extended learning opportunities” for students, and a total of $110,000 to upgrade air conditioning.
“When I spoke to our Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, [he said] there are still air conditioners that need fixing,” Hubbird said.
Kyra Tyler, school board president, said that while Grant-White will not be used as a school beginning this 2022-23 school year, the district still plans to use the building for other purposes, but does not gave no further details. The review previously asked the district what the building would be used for, but did not receive a timely response.
Hubbird told the council that the district was still working out the details of the “expanded learning opportunities” the district would provide, but he used a possible collaboration with Forest Park Theater as an example.
For approximately $1.58 million in ESSER III funds, the district plans to spend a total of $201,654 to replace 232 Chromebooks, tablets, and other devices. Hubbird said that given the 3-4 year life cycle of these devices, as well as the greater use they have had during the pandemic, a replacement is inevitable. He also mentioned that the funding could be used to purchase security cameras.
A total of $197,000 will be spent to continue summer schools and extended learning programs. It would use $611,280 to hire additional coaches and social workers, as well as cover eight days of staff professional development. $75,000 would go towards mentoring and tutoring, and $125,000 would be used to help implement a STEM curriculum for all grade levels.
A total of $255,741 would be used to pay for cleaning and PPE expenses, including $110,741 for the salaries of two additional cleaning staff who were hired as a result of the pandemic.
Finally, $87,639 will be used for staff development and “Parent University” – free certification courses offered to all parents in the district. Hubbird said it could include Microsoft program certifications and a C++ programming certification.
Board secretary Monique Cotton-Yancy said she appreciates the district wanting to spend money to train teachers to tutor and support students, noting that many parents just can’t. afford private tutoring services.
[This way] you can just send the kids to public school,” she said. “It’s amazing, it’s awesome, and I’m happy to see it budgeted.”