Groveport Madison board approves spending $18.9 million in federal funds

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By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Editor

By a 4-1 vote, the Groveport Madison Board of Education approved a plan to spend $18.9 million in federal funding.

The district expects to receive the $18.9 million from The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). The spending plan for the ESSER 3 funds must be submitted to the Ohio Department of Education by Aug. 20. Once the ODE approves the plan the funds will be released by the federal government to Groveport Madison. The federal ESSER 3 funds must be spent by September 2024.

The plan includes $4.2 million for a community center that includes a health center and $4.6 million for a new bus garage.

Board member Kathleen Walsh was the lone dissenting vote. She argued the money should not go towards a health center and instead should be used to address student overcrowding to build a new K-8 school and improve other school facilities.

At a previous board meeting Walsh said, “It’s not our job to build a health center.”

Groveport Madison Superintendent Garilee Ogden said some facility repairs have been made, including a new roof on a school and other repairs elsewhere. She said, while district officials agree on the need for new schools, spending money on a new school is not one of the 15 permitted uses for ESSER 3 funding. She noted that, even if it was, there is not enough time to place a bond issue on the November ballot to fund the additional money needed to build a new school nor to obtain matching funds from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.

ESSER 3 spending under the plan
ESSER 3 funding is available to help safely reopen schools and address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students. District officials said they focused their ESSER 3 funding plan on: academic and instructional support; social and emotional support for students; facilities and operations; and community supports and equity. Groveport Madison proposes to spend the following under the plan:

•$4.6 million for a new bus garage.

“Basically, we’re out of space (at the existing bus garage located behind the District Service Center, 4400 Marketing Place, Groveport), said Groveport Madison Communications Director Jeff Warner.

The current bus garage would move to district owned acreage at the northeast corner of Bixby and Hendron roads abutting Three Creeks Metro Park.

•$4.2 million for District Service Center repurposing including a health center.

“Physical and mental health issues, social-emotional challenges, and trauma have impacted the behaviors and achievement of many children for decades and the past 16 months of the pandemic have exposed those impacts like never before,” said Warner. “Our principals, teachers, counselors, social workers, nurses – almost anyone working with children have seen how many students and their families have struggled. Faced with the deaths of friends and family members, job losses, food insecurity, social isolation, and the general disruption of everything they knew as ‘normal,’ we’ve seen firsthand the impact that COVID has had on our students and their families.”

He said COVID hasn’t gone away.

“It’s still here and its impact will continue for the foreseeable future,” said Warner. “We think a Community Health and Wellness Center could be a tremendous benefit in addressing some of the major obstacles to student achievement and overall good health.”

The District Service Center repurposing (the remaining three quarters of the space) would include: Welcome Center (enrollment); social services; Franklin County Sheriff’s truancy officers; Franklin County Job and Family Services; food and clothing bank; and community office/meeting space.

•Other items include: $1.7 million for roofing projects at three schools.; $1.5 million to secure vestibule entrances; $724,000 for eight instructional coaches salaries; $600,000 to increase teacher building sub pay; $550,000 for Chromebooks; $473,000 to upgrade and add security cameras at schools; $450,000 for District of Columbia trip for grades 8, 9, and 10; $430,000 for interactive displays at elementary schools; $400,000 for ACES after school transportation; $345,500 for eight instructional coaches benefits; $313,500 DISC training for all coaches and mindset work with K-12 teachers; $303,000 for exterior lighting at nine schools; $300,000 for paving outdoor learning spaces; $250,000 for Greater Columbus Helping Hands, Project Lead the Way, and I Know You Can programs; $205,000 for interactive displays at the high school; $125,000 for 120 high school staff laptop computers and 15 high school staff Chromebooks; $105,000 for stipend for employee pandemic safety training salaries; $100,000 math intervention materials and supplies; $100,000 for GoGuardian Filtering software; $97,500 for Chromebooks at home connection for learning; $84,000 Americorp tutors and mentors; $70,000 for EDP start up costs after school care staff salaries; $55,000 after school tutoring staff salaries; $50,000 leadership development; $50,000 after school program instructional supplies; $45,000 interactive displays at middle schools; $30,000 for TANF scholarships; $30,000 EDP start up costs after school care staff benefits; $25,000 EPA required testing of buildings; $16,200 stipend for employees for pandemic safety training benefits; $8,300 after school tutoring program staff benefits; and $5,000 EDP start up costs after school care supplies.

Survey results
District officials conducted an online survey on how to spend the ESSER 3 funds from July 26 to Aug. 5 and 758 people responded, of which 48 percent identified themselves as parents or guardians and 28 percent identified as staff members.

According to the survey, 69 percent of respondents supported repurposing the District Service Center and providing a health and wellness center in partnership with PrimaryOne.

When asked if they would consider using the health and wellness center to address their needs, 46 percent responded “no,” 42 percent responded “yes,” and 12 percent said it did not apply to them.

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