DeKalb, Decatur schools outline plans for American Rescue Plan fundingDeKalb County Board of Education Chairwoman Vickie Turner (left) and Decatur School Board Chairwoman Tasha White participated in a press conference on Thursday, May 13, to celebrate the passage of a local annexation bill. The two board chairs were praised by other local leaders for their work on the passage of the legislation. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
DeKalb County, GA — Local schools have begun receiving funding through the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration’s COVID-19 relief bill. City Schools of Decatur has been allocated about $2.5 million and the DeKalb County School District will receive about $313 million.
In April, states received access to two-thirds of their American Rescue Plan educational funding, which was a total of $81 billion. The remaining $41 billion will become available following the U.S. Department of Education’s approval of each state’s plan, according to the Department of Education.
Over $4 billion of that funding has been allocated to public school districts in Georgia and over $1.5 billion will go to metro Atlanta Schools, Sen. Jon Ossoff said at a press conference on June 14.
“But as I was briefed [Monday] on how those funds are going to be used, I heard a consistent focus on screening as students re-enter full in person education to determine what their needs may be after a year of partial loss of in-person learning,” Ossoff said at the press conference. “[I] heard a lot of emphasis on adding mental health and physical health capacity to schools, supporting and bringing on additional teaching resources, extracurriculars, summer programs.”
Each plan will be reviewed by the department to determine whether it addresses published requirements, including seeking input from key stakeholder groups and the public in the creation of the plan, and addressing needs of students disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including students in underserved communities, according to the department.
City Schools of Decatur plans to spend the funding on teachers, paraprofessionals, state health insurance, and supplies among other things, according to the district’s budget.
The priorities of CSD are to minimize health and safety risks for students and staff and to provide an equitable, engaging and meaningful learning experience for students.
About 20% of CSD’s funding will go toward addressing learning loss through summer learning and supplemental afterschool programs, using high-quality assessments to examine students’ academic progress, provide information and assistance to parents and families about how they can support students, and tracking student attendance and improving student engagement in distance education, according to the district’s plan.
Most of the funding, about 80%, will go toward other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services throughout the district and continuing to employ existing staff. Continuing to employ existing staff has been identified as “other activities” in CSD’s plan.
CSD Superintendent Maggie Fehrman attended the roundtable discussion and press conference with Ossoff and said the purpose of the meeting was to share how the district will spend the funds distributed to the school system by the federal government through the American Rescue Plan.
“Our plans are in line with our neighboring districts,” Fehrman said. “We have known these funds would be received since March and we have prepared our 2021-2022 school year to make full use of them. CSD will use our ARP-CARES III funds for continuity of existing instructional services and to enhance extended learning opportunities outside of the normal school day through summer programs, afterschool programs, and additional learning opportunities during fall and winter breaks.”
So far, the DeKalb County School District has focused on responsibly spending the funding it received through the first two rounds of CARES Act funding.
“CARES I was spent primarily on keeping everyone safe,” a spokesperson for the district said. “CARES II already include[s] restoration of five calendar reduction days. Other projects include providing facility improvements to ensure a safe learning environment as students and staff return to face-to-face learning and operations. Additional resources are targeted to student and staff mental and emotional wellbeing that may have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.”
The plans from school districts for the American Rescue Plan funding is due to the state in July.
“Discussions to date have focused on investments that will pay dividends over many years in terms of closing the achievement gap for key groups,” a spokesperson for the DeKalb County school district said. “These investments will include expansion of digital learning technology and early learning opportunities.”