By Jessica Taylor
During the Herricks Board of Education meeting Thursday night Superintendent Dr. Tony Sinanis touched on some concerns about the Federal Stimulus Funds and how “other school districts are not necessarily using all their funding.”
Sinanis opened the floor to Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Elizabeth Guercin for an update about these funds and how Herricks has used them in the last year.
Guercin said that in 2020 the district received $1.1 million in Covid-19 Federal Stimulus Funds, which included $350,000 under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act and $785,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act.
She said that based on feedback after holding meetings with the public and constituents, the funds were designated for initiatives focused on learning loss, social-emotional learning support and health and safety initiatives as required in the grants’ funding.
Some 60% of the funding is going toward learning loss and social-emotional learning initiatives, which is far higher than the 20% minimum required by the state. The remaining 40% will go toward health and safety initiatives.
Using the American Rescue Plan Act funding, learning loss initiatives include the district’s 1-for-1 Chromebook initiative, summer programs, recovery services, an occupational therapist and a behavior specialist, among others.
Health and Safety initiatives include univent reconditioning, PPE supplies, an LED sign for the community center and a part-time nurse.
The social-emotional initiative is $96,847 going toward the district’s middle school wellness center, which is being expended during the 2022-2023 school year. Some $459,823 was used during 2021-2022, $288,346 in 2022-2023 and only $37,198 will be used in the grant’s third and final year during the 2023-2024 school year.
For the Corona Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act, $149,948 was spent during 2021-2022, $164,495 will be spent during 2022-2023 and $35,000 will be spent next school year.
A full 50% of the funds were expended during the 2021-2022 school year and 40% is being expended during 2022-2023, most of which has already been utilized, Guercin said.
Guercin was happy to announce that the district will have a “phenomenal” amount left to cover the 2023-2024 school year. The figures are already posted on the district’s website and updates will continue to be posted.
President Jim Gounaris commented that “we just wanted to make sure that people understood that we used our money” unlike some other school districts where the funds went unspent. “We made sure that it went to the health and safety of our kids” and staff members, too.”
Gounaris continued, “We put our best efforts forward to utilize all that money. So for those who may read and hear that school districts are sitting on a ton of money, we are not sitting on any of it. We spent it according to the guidelines, rules, policies and procedures that were offered through those grants.”
He thanked the board for their transparency. The next Herrick’s Board of Education meeting will be held on Jan. 5.