Sitting in a meeting with the board at Anderson County Schools or watching the live stream of the meeting, one thing becomes perfectly clear: our school board makes decisions that are informed by feedback from all stakeholders and is focused primarily on what is best for the students in our district. Have we gotten parent input, student input, staff input, community input? Check. Will this new program help recover some of the student learning loss? Are we targeting intervention services? Will this decision provide clear and direct aid to students? Check, check, and check. This is the process Superintendent Mitchell and the rest of the board follow in all decisions to ensure that each choice is informed and focused on best practices for the students in our schools. So too with the choices of how our district should spend the federal and state relief funds provided for COVID-Relief.
While some schools in our country have gone to NTI without providing students with laptops or have had to cancel bus routes and ask parents to pick up their children from school instead, Anderson County Schools have continued to run fairly seamlessly as they also continue to provide additional services to care for our students’ whole being. The funds provided to all schools in the state have come with stipulations—matrices to govern what the federal and state funds can or cannot be used to purchase in the schools. In addition to those matrices and stipulations, Anderson County Schools sought the input of all stakeholders to identify what each group saw as an area worthy of consideration for additional funding. Then, working within the guidelines and stakeholder input, our district then relied upon Kentucky Department of Education guidance and templates to finalize their spending proposal.
Below is a detailed list of funding sources and what those sources have funded:
* ESSER I ($463,834): These funds were spent on student Chromebooks, staff technology for implementing digital learning, digital learning platforms for K-12 virtual learning, furniture for social distancing, six full-time substitute positions, additional hours for teachers covering classes, extended school services for credit recovery as well as student learning loss due to the pandemic (tutoring, Individual Learning Centers at schools—state funding used first and then ESSER money to supplement), instructional field trips to re-engage students in school (Life Adventure Center of the Bluegrass and the Kentucky Science Center)
* GEERS ($79,566): Spent $79,279 on digital learning platforms for virtual learning and NTI
* ESSER II ($2,160,457): Spent $1,967,794.03 on 2021 Summer Boost program for K-12 learning loss/re-covered learning/re-engagement into in-person school, supplies/books/materials for Summer Boost camps, virtual learning platform renewals for K-12 as well as additional programs (e.g. Dreambox, Literacy Footprints, Peardeck, Screencastify, Edmentum, IXL, Academic Edge, Albert IO, Amplify Education, and more), webcams, Bluetooth headsets, iPads with pencils, intervention kits, staff professional development, PPE, bottled water, security services, medical services, student Chromebooks, school supplies, supplemental pay for teachers to cover classes during planning due to substitute shortages, student mifis.
If a minimum of 80% of the ESSER II funds were spent on direct services to students (as they were in Anderson County), additional funding was provided in the form of ESSER II Set Aside funding.
* ESSER II Set Aside ($239,557): Spent $20,077.61 on security services (SRO), compensatory education services, medical services, and indirect costs.
* ARP ESSER III ($4,657,611): Spent $204,463.95 on the safety and well-being of students: mental health books, cleaning supplies, PPE, instructions materials/assessments/learning platform licenses (Edulastic), cafeteria tables for social distancing, and intervention salaries to counteract learning loss.
* Last Mile Restricted Funds ($21,600): Spent $18,155 on access points and set up for internet access in school parking lots for virtual learning and NTI.
* Kentucky Virtual Library ($3,866): Used for virtual library access.
* Digital Learning Coach ($8,698.97): Spent $1,566.75 on stipends for on-site student technology coordinators.
* ARP IDEA Basic ($196,896): Spent $27,075.70 on staff salary, ADOS-2 Kit, Riverside Assessments (Protocols), Therapro Inc, laptop for SLP-A, computer monitor, teacher Chromebooks, and sensory room items.
* ARP IDEA Preschool ($20,843): Spent $6,005.64 on sensory items for preschool students.
Additional funding came by way of the CoronaVirus Relief Fund from KDE ($661,953). This funding, however, unlike the other funding sources, was not additional funding. Each year, the Kentucky Department of Education allocates money to each district through SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) payments. SEEK payments to school districts were reduced, so state funds were adjusted to counteract that reduction in expected funding. Therefore, this funding source was considered relief funds to replace December SEEK allocations, with federal money replacing the state money that was already scheduled to be disbursed. This funding was spent on staff salaries, benefits, water, PPE, storage bins, social distancing decals, carts for food delivery, cleaning supplies, flags for plan communication, radios, signage earbuds for students, desks, and electricity.
Of the funding provided to Anderson County Schools, which must be used by the September 2024 deadline, the district still has 59% remaining to our schools and students through continued COVID-related needs for the next two years. Plans for the use of those additional funds continue to keep students as the priority: continued recovery of student learning loss and student intervention services, summer academies for standards recovery and mastery for students, intervention staff salaries to provide additional supports for students, additional staff for cleaning for student and staff safety, Chromebooks and instructional technology for students and staff, additional learning platforms and licenses, additional support for extended school services for students, staff professional development for new programs, MTSS- intervention data system to track student progress, supplemental staff to provide instruction for student learning loss, educational resources, PPE, laundromat for students, student food pantry, student ACT prep, summer food STEM learning bus, and indirect costs (the cost of administering the management of the funds).
As the past spending and future spending make clear, there were no decisions made without laborious thought that was focused, as always, on the children in our schools. There were no decisions made without guidance and input from those affected in the district. There were no decisions made without transparency. If you want your children in a district that cares about children more than anything else, then you’ve found your place in Anderson County Schools.
The following is a list of posts/articles concerning input requested, information concerning, or details related to COVID-relief funding:
April 1st, 2020: Posted agenda and an invitation to stream the Board Meeting—Additional essential function/duty pay on the agenda
June 5th, 2020: Posted agenda and an invitation to stream the Board Meeting—Discussion of ESSER and GEERS funding on the agenda
July 6th, 2020: Long-Range Planning Public Forum announcement
July 13th, 2020: Posted agenda and an invitation to stream the Board Meeting—Food Service/Custodial/Substitute Teacher COVID Response discussion on the agenda
May 20th, 2021: Posted agenda and an invitation to stream the Board Meeting—Discussion of ESSER II funds, spending plan approval, tentative budget, and technology plan
June 14th, 2021: Posted agenda and an invitation to stream the Board Meeting—Trauma-informed plan, large purchases discussion, financial report discussion
July 16th, 2021: Survey asking for community stakeholder input on spending and needs
The full spending plan can be found on the Anderson County Schools Homepage under AC Schools 2021 Reopening Plan, titled “2021 Safe Return to In-person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan”