By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
In an effort to stem learning loss and provide a more COVID-safe environment, North Schools will receive more than $4 million in federal funds.
The money is being provided to schools across the state through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund included in the American Rescue Plan. Also known as the COVID-19 Stimulus Package, it is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11. North Attleborough is slated to receive $4.289 million.
School Business Manager David Flynn said that 20 percent of the money needs to be used to address learning loss that may have occurred since the pandemic began. According to information sent to the town from the office of Congressman Jake Auchincloss, this can be done “through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, including summer learning, extended day or afterschool programs, or extended school year programs.”
“It’s great to see this funding coming in and it’s going to help us over the next two years,” said Flynn at the April 7 School Committee meeting.
The remaining 80 percent can be utilized for just about anything related to the schools, but some of the suggested uses are:
- Purchasing sanitation and PPE and training school staff on pandemic preparedness
- Repairing schools to reduce virus transmission
- Providing technology for online learning to all students and meals to eligible students learning remotely
- Providing mental health services for students
“Additionally, school districts must solicit public input on and publish plans for the safe return to in-person instruction within 30 days after receipt of funds,” wrote Auchincloss’ office to the town.
The week of April 5, North Attleborough began bringing students back to in-person classes five days a week. Some are still learning remotely, and this will count toward the required 180 school days for this academic year.
Superintendent Scott Holcomb said that the school budget has been submitted to Town Manager Michael Borg and will be reviewed at the April 12 Town Council meeting. He said if there are any shortfalls, then the ESSER grant could help fill the gaps.
Committee member James McKenna cautioned that the town could use this grant to reduce the school budget, knowing that other funding exists. He said that the committee has two major roles—hiring the superintendent and setting the school budget—and that they should discuss how best to use the ESSER grant.
“Any discussion that happens outside of that circle undercuts those two purposes,” he said.