CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — The superintendent of the Shenendehowa School District has presented a plan to the Board of Education that takes a multi-year perspective on spending nearly $14 million in additional federal funding.
Because the funds will be a one-time benefit due to the unique nature of the COVID pandemic, the district must prioritize spending on non-recurring costs.
The aid comes from two federal sources; the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) and the American Rescue Plan (ARPA). Shen will receive $9 million from the CRRSAA fund and $3.9 million from the ARPA fund.
Along with the funding come guidelines. The plans require Shen to allocate the CRRSSA by Sept. 30, 2023, and the ARPA aid by Sept. 30, 2024. Detailed plans on how the district will put the funds to use must be received by New York State Education in the very near future. The date has been set back once already.
The ARPA guidelines also require that the district post the plan on how the funds will be expended to its website before the start of the school year. However, before posting the plan, Shen must seek public comment from parents, teachers and other stakeholders.
Shen Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson noted that in order to begin the process for creating the required plans the administration must undertake specific actions.
“What did we learn from COVID, let’s reflect on it,” he said at the June 8 board meeting. “We must know where we are, know where we ought to be, and see what we have to do to bridge the gap.”
Before taking any steps however it must be understood that the ARPA funding stipulates that learning loss be a priority focal point.
School districts are required to use 20 percent of the funds allotted to them to address this issue. CRRSSA, however, requires the district focus on summer enrichment and after-school programming. No specific amount is denoted from this funding source.
Allowable uses for the remaining funds include, maximizing in-person instruction time, operating schools and meeting the needs of students, purchasing educational technology, addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students, and supporting early childhood education.
Shen will meet the federal guidelines by acknowledging and responding to the lessons learned from the COVID experience, by providing a safe and welcoming learning environment upon the return of full, in-person instruction, and by maximizing operational efficiencies.
The pandemic experience has reinforced the importance of: prioritization of skills and content that students know, understand, and achieve; the belief that grading is for learning and not for scoring; authentic learning experiences that address multiple intelligences and learning styles; integration of technology to support independent learning and solution building; and social-emotional learning and the critical nature of relationships.
In order to accelerate students’ learning the district plans to maximize in-person instruction time by meeting them wherever they are in the learning curve and providing them with the right tools and content to ensure success in the coming years.
To enhance the learning experience and eradicate learning loss the district intends to purchase educational technology such as classroom audio enhancement (microphones for teachers), future-ready furniture and equipment, instructional technology, more musical instruments so there will be no sharing of instruments.
The district will also work to preserving and expand equity in opportunities through expansion and access to high school study skills and credit recovery, middle school and high school summer school, extended school day for tutoring for elementary students struggling in reading and math, homework help, and bilingual and/or co-taught English as a new language for core courses like science and global history.
Support for early childhood education will take the form of maintaining lower class sizes for kindergarten through second grade, expansion of extended day-kindergarten, and Kindergarten Jump Start to ensure an equitable start for students lacking skills.
Robinson said the district is collecting a lot of ideas, making lists, and starting to prioritize how to do all the things it wants to do and is required to do through the next few years.
“This isn’t a one month conversation,” he said. “It’s a multi-year conversation; how do we use these funds so that three, four, five years from now we’ll have this conversation again and we will realize the things we are taking for granted were started in 2021. These funds are another resource to position us for prosperity to move forward.”