By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Madison Schools officials are busy putting federal funds to use.
The money comes from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund (ESSER).
The district already spent the $1.96 million in ESSER 1 funds that was used to pay teachers working in the Cruiser Digital Academy as well as provide personal protective equipment to students and staff to protect them from the COVID pandemic.
Thus far the district as spent $3.25 million of the $8.4 million ESSER 2 funds it received. The ESSER 2 funds must be expended by September 2023. (To see the list of completed projects visit the district’s website at gocruisers.org.)
“As of Sept. 10, the only item that remains in the “Not Started” category (for ESSER 2) is our Cruiser Connect Summer School 2022 program,” said Groveport Madison Communications Director Jeff Warner.
ESSER 3 funding is available to help safely reopen schools and address the impacts of the COVID pandemic. District officials said they focused their ESSER 3 funding on academic and instructional support; social and emotional support for students; facilities and operations; and community supports and equity. ESSER 3 funds must be spent by September 2024.
The district sent their $18.9 million ESSER 3 spending plan to the Ohio Department of Education for approval. Since then the amount was lowered to $18.8 million.
“It’s not uncommon for the actual allocation to vary slightly from the initial award,” said Warner. “Other than to confirm receipt of our plan, we’ve not yet received a response from ODE regarding approval or any issues requiring clarification.”
When asked what areas will receive less funding since there is $100,000 less in ESSER 3 funds, Warner said, “We were intending to purchase electronic door lock card readers for all of our older buildings. Since building monitoring and security is such a critical issue, we have moved the expense into the general fund so we can move forward with the purchase right away.”
District officials do not expect to receive more federal money under ESSER.
“We’re not aware of plans for additional ESSER funding on the scale we’ve seen to date,” said Warner.
The biggest ticket items slated for ESSER 3 funding are $4.6 million for a new bus garage; and $4.2 million for repurposing the District Service Center – including a health center, a Welcome Center, social services, truancy officers, Franklin County Job and Family Services, food and clothing bank, and community meeting space.
“Since the onset of coronavirus in the U.S., the country has faced many hardships on top of the lives lost,” said Warner. “These challenging times have impacted individuals, business, schools, and more. The government has stepped up and offered many resources and large amounts of funding to help keep the economy afloat.”
Warner said, to date, the U.S. Congress has passed six relief packages aimed at providing assistance to individuals and businesses who are dealing with the economic fallout since the pandemic began. In total, the stimulus packages amount to approximately $4 trillion in spending.
“The funds we’ve received to date and expect to receive through the ESSER III allocation are being used to help safely reopen schools and address the impacts of the pandemic on students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs, including interventions to address ‘learning loss’ – delays in students’ academic progress related to the pandemic – and support equity with services and supports for student populations that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted,” said Warner. “We feel strongly that the federal funds are very much needed.”