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Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Erie Times E-Edition Article-Millcreek schools detail spending for $16M in COVID relief

Posted by M. C. on September 27, 2021

A major focus has been adding an intervention specialist at each building to help students get on track academically. The district expects to spend $2.9 million to cover the cost for three years.

If you have talked to many parents about remote learning this may not be a surprise. An accidental admission that remote learning is a failure.

One year of remote “learning” results in intervention “for three years”.

In-person may not be much better. Does your child’s teacher hide behind shower curtains?

https://erietimes-pa-app.newsmemory.com/?publink=0992b93c7_1345f13

Valerie Myers Erie Times-News USA TODAY NETWORK Millcreek Township School District is detailing how it’s spent more than $3 million in COVID-19 relief funds and how it plans to spend almost $14 million more.

The school district so far has received more than $16 million from various government relief programs and will receive another $732,000 for programs targeted to reverse learning loss and for after-school and summer enrichment programs.

The bulk of the funding is from three rounds of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funding. The money can be spent over the next three school years.

‘Our approach with this federal relief is student-centered. The students come first,’ said Aaron O’Toole, director of finance and operations for the Millcreek Township School District. ‘We’re prioritizing what we can do to address learning loss, to make sure that we have a safe environment for our students and staff, and to continue academic growth to where we want it to be.’

A major focus has been adding an intervention specialist at each building to help students get on track academically. The district expects to spend $2.9 million to cover the cost for three years.

But that doesn’t mean it will actually spend that amount.

‘Two years down the road we may say we don’t need an interventionalist in every building,’ O’Toole said. ‘We’ll present regular reports on relief money we’ve already spent and reports intended to be snapshots of how we plan to spend money. However that spending will be very fluid in the next few years’ depending on changing district needs.

What’s been spent so far The district so far has spent just under $3.8 million of the relief funding, mostly on efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and for the technology needed for virtual instruction, O’Toole said.

Spending for remote learning included the purchase of laptops and other technology and curriculum software. The money also paid the salaries of additional teachers needed for virtual learning.

Spending for COVID-19 mitigation bought protective equipment, backpack sprayers, desk shields and cleaning supplies and paid for subcontractors to help clean and sanitize buildings. Funds also paid for training for the district’s pandemic coordinator and team.

Additional money was spent for summer learning programs; the district-run cyber school; salaries for additional mental health therapists in schools; and professional development focusing on instruction and also the social and emotional well-being of students and staff.

Plans for future spending ‘We’ll continue spending in some of those same areas, including continuing our COVID mitigation efforts with supplies for disinfecting and sanitizing and additional support to provide that,’ O’Toole said.

The district also plans to continue technology and software purchases to accommodate both in-person and remote learnings.

The district additionally expects to use the money for new positions, including a professional development coordinator, director of assessment, additional teachers for virtual learning, and additional mental health staff.

About $3.3 million of the relief funding has not yet been earmarked for specific projects or staff. That money could be used to upgrade the HVAC systems as part of the improvements planned at McDowell Intermediate High School and Walnut Creek Middle School, O’Toole said.

It also could help fund proposed renovations at the Erie County Technical School, he said.

The district’s main objective is to be nimble with the money and use it as it’s best needed now and over the next two years, O’Toole said.

‘The focus will be student-centered and on our mitigation efforts. We can’t just spend the money on anything. It’s targeted (by law) to be spent in something like 10 to 15 areas,’ O’Toole said. ‘It’s not like we can take the money and use it to balance our budget or pay all our salaries.’

O’Toole will detail the relief fund spending for the Millcreek Township School Board on Monday evening and will present regular updates to the board monthly.

Contact Valerie Myers at vmyers@timesnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @ETNmyers.

Be seeing you

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