$5 million COVID-19 response proposed in District 203 budget for 2021-22

  • Naperville Unit District 203 is proposing nearly $5 million worth of Return to Learn initiatives in its 2021-22 budget to help address students' academic and social-emotional needs after the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Naperville Unit District 203 is proposing nearly $5 million worth of Return to Learn initiatives in its 2021-22 budget to help address students' academic and social-emotional needs after the COVID-19 pandemic. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Posted5/5/2021 5:02 AM

Extra teaching specialists, tutoring services, social workers and boot camps are roped into the proposed budget for next academic year to help Naperville Unit District 203 address students' needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district anticipates spending nearly $5 million on various Return to Learn initiatives, including the hiring of 14 additional math specialists, 12 English learner or learning behavior specialists, and two social workers, Chief Financial Officer Mike Frances said Monday during an overview of the tentative 2021-22 budget. School board members have supported dedicating federal COVID-19 relief dollars toward those academic and social-emotional recovery efforts.

 

The additional positions will ensure each building has at least one math specialist who could assist classroom teachers and work with all students in various capacities, said Jayne Willard, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. School leaders have been requesting extra math support "for a long time," she said, and student assessments have recently shown a need for it.

"It's a very, very versatile position," Willard said. "This is the right time to do this."

The English learner and learning behavior specialists would support differentiation and language needs within grade-level curriculum while also increasing co-teaching opportunities with other educators, administrators said. And the two additional social workers would respond to an expected jump in social-emotional needs as students transition back to in-person learning.

The Return to Learn budget additions also include a partnership with a hospital to offer mental health resources and roughly $610,000 jump start program to help select students acclimate to being back in the classroom, administrators said.

Learning boot camps, expected to cost about $51,000, would help kids strengthen their skills to meet essential standards.

Officials also are budgeting about $1.5 million for tutoring services to help students who may need help catching up academically, said Christine Igoe, assistant superintendent of student services. The district would plan to contract with an external agency to offer on-site tutoring sessions before or after school, or during lunch if necessary, she said.

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Those programs and personnel costs are expected to be covered by a roughly $6.4 million grant through the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, Frances said. Any unused dollars will go toward relief initiatives for the 2022-23 school year.

The Return to Learn costs, budgeted in the district's education fund, contribute to a projected 4.3% increase in total expenditures for 2021-22 compared to this year, Frances said.

The proposed $306.3 million budget includes an $11.9 million hike in salaries and benefits -- a category that makes up 77% of the district's expenses, documents show. That accounts for a new supervisor of special education, a new assistant superintendent of administrative services and at least eight other staff positions recommended districtwide, on top of the specialists and social workers proposed through the Return to Learn plan.

Revenues are expected to be up compared to this year, too, Frances said, pointing to the federal grant funding and a roughly $7 million jump in property taxes. With revenues projected at $305.6 million, the district is anticipating a roughly $734,929 budget deficit, he said.

Budget discussions are scheduled to resume during school board workshops May 18 and June 7. A public hearing is planned for June 21, after which the board is expected to consider adopting the budget.

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