Local schools getting a funding boost from COVID-19 grants
In fits and spurts, school coffers are being replenished.
State Sen. Laura Fine released a statement April 1 noting that school districts in her 9th District will receive $32,583,004 dedicated to helping schools deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, Illinois received nearly $7 billion to support local school districts, the release stated.
Terry Ryan, communications director at Northbrook School District 28, said the $537,020 District 28 will receive according to the Glenview senator's figures is a combination of all three grants of federal assistance since the pandemic started.
Three stimulus bills, per the National Conference of State Legislatures, have been passed by the U.S. Congress to aid the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Education Relief Fund, known to school administrators as the ESSER Fund: the CARES Act of March 2020, the aid known as ESSER II from December 2020 and the ESSER III, or American Rescue Plan Act, passed on March 11.
"The first phase was targeting PPE (personal protective equipment), the second one targeting professional development for teachers to deliver remote instruction, and the third, most recent grant, is designed to cover expenses related to getting students back in class, with 20% directed at learning loss," Ryan said.
District 28 has spent more than $1.2 million on pandemic-related expenses, Ryan said, mainly on additional staff and mitigation measures. District 28 has provided in-person learning all school year, and 70% of the student population has opted for it.
"We are beginning to plan for next year and know we will still have to have mitigation measures in place. It will take some time to determine our course of action and possible uses for the federal funds," he said.
Glenview School District 34 will be receiving a total of $4,624,235 in federal money, according to Sen. Fine's figures. The bulk of it will come with the ESSER III funding, said Eric Miller, District 34 assistant superintendent for business services.
He said the initial funds would go to reimbursement for additional expenses due to remote teaching positions and those for additional nursing and custodial positions, along with PPE costs. ESSER II funding may focus on positions as well, and the district also is hoping to shore up its fund balance. Much of the plan has yet to be finalized, Miller said.
"We know we're shelling out millions of dollars up front," he said.
Dr. R.J. Gravel, associate superintendent at Northfield Township High School District 225, more commonly known as Glenbrook High Schools District 225, said the district is currently reviewing the authorized uses of the ESSER II and III funds. The total federal funding for District 225 is $2,703,012.
The district had singled out about $500,000 of its approximate $800,000 in ESSER II funds for its COVID-19 testing program for students, with other COVID-related expenses likely absorbing the rest, Gravel stated in an email. Specifics have yet to be detailed, but he said a portion of the ESSER III money will be used for COVID-related expenses, and another portion to support student learning growth.
"I would anticipate we will provide a Board of Education update during May with a recommendation for how to allocate those funds," Dr. Gravel stated.
Northbrook/Glenview School District 30 was set to receive $833,754, according to Sen. Fine's release. Messages to the district for information on how these funds were to be spent were not returned by deadline.
They will undoubtedly be appreciated.
"The federal funding is providing much-needed financial assistance at a time when the district's COVID-related expenses have caused a larger-than-expected budget deficit," Northbrook School District 28 Superintendent Dr. Larry Hewitt stated in an email.
"This spending has been essential for us to meet the challenges of safely providing both in-person and remote learning for our students this year. The additional funding will help offset some of those expenses."