Next round of ESSER spending will be focused on curriculum and personnel

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By Max

North Attleborough’s spending of the third found of funding through the ESSER Grant program will include classroom supplies, educator training, and maintaining current staffing levels.

The grant was introduced as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and can be used for a number of purposes, including preparedness and response to COVID-19, addressing long-term closures, mental health supports, afterschool and summer activities, and continued staff employment.

North Attleborough is receiving $4 million over a three-year period through this program and has until September 2024 to spend the third funding installment. Past expenditures include technology upgrades, improvements to mental health programs, and the hiring of intervention specialists, an estimated $300,000. These would help students with learning difficulties before they are labeled as having a disability.

Assistant Superintendent Catherine Blake estimated that of the spending already done, 76 percent has been on curriculum and staffing, and expects that to be the same with the next round. Materials and supplies for the science and robotics labs and maintaining staffing added on through prior ESSER Grants are part of the plan for the newest round of funds.

“There’s also a continued investment in Professional Development,” said Blake at the School Committee’s Sept. 12 meeting. “That’s a continuation of the Professional Development that we’ve already started.”

Assistant Superintendent Michell McKeon said the improvements done through the ESSER Grants have been beneficial for the students. School Committee Chair Ethan Hamilton suggested including these in future budgets.

Typically, municipalities avoid using one-time funding sources on staffing, since this requires continued allocations after the source has run dry. Superintendent John Antonucci said that the structure of North Attleborough’s plan for the third round of ESSER was designed to wean the district off of the federal funds so that it could handle these costs on its own.

“We have a big decision to make—some positions are to get kids back on track from the pandemic, some are core personnel,” he said. “I can’t imagine what we’d do without those. We have some time but it’s going to come fast.”