Valley schools get 2nd-round boost in relief funds | News, Sports, Jobs

Mahoning Valley school districts are expected to receive slightly more than $39 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds this spring.

This is a second installment of relief funds provided by the federal government for hard-hit school districts since the coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020.

In the last allocation of ESSER funds provided to school districts in 2020, schools in Mahoning County received $9,157,835.

The final allocations are expected to be released in the next several weeks, according to Ohio Board of Education officials. Once allocated, the funds must be used by Sept. 30, 2023.

School districts are being awarded based on the percent of total Title 1 funds they receive. Funds can support any allowable activity under existing federal funds, including Title I (to support academic achievement), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Perkins (low interest loans to help needy students finance the costs of postsecondary education) and others, as well as expenses directly related to the pandemic.

The funding is part of an additional $54.3 billion set aside for the ESSER Fund. The money is part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CARES) Act signed into law Dec. 27, 2020.

School districts received communication from the Ohio Department of Education on Jan. 22 of the proposed ESSER II allocation.

In this round of awards, Youngstown is expected to receive $22,338,287.

Last fall, Youngstown City Schools received $5,655,164 in ESSER funds. At the time, school officials said the district would be using the money to purchase laptops and Chromebooks for students.

Youngstown city school students have not returned to classrooms since Gov. Mike DeWine closed all schools last March. These students have been learning through remote educational programs.

“The first round enabled us to begin the school year remotely with technology for scholars and for teachers as well as sanitizers, thermometers, masks, etc.,” explained Denise Dick, Youngstown City Schools spokeswoman.

“For the latest round, our major focus will be on the safety of our scholars returning to buildings, which will include transportation safety, custodial safety, heating-ventilation-air conditioning, more sanitation stations and training to ensure the money is used effectively.”

The district also hopes to open more school building-based clinics, if the funding permits.

LIBERTY BUILDINGS, STAFF

Liberty schools are expected to receive $1,419,668 in ESSER funds this year. Superintendent Andrew J. Tommelleo said he hopes to use some of the money to work on the district’s buildings, the heating and air conditioning systems, as well as staffing needs.

The district used the funds received last year to address staff, as well as health and safety needs.

“We are in the planning stage of how we will spend these funds,” Tommelleo said. “Looking down the road, we have staffing and maintenance concerns, so we are trying to determine what our priorities are.”

Students have been back inside Liberty school buildings four days a week.

“We purchased some technology with ESSER I funds, but we also will likely have to use some of this new money to buy additional Chromebooks and hot spots,” he said.

Obtaining these funds is especially important to Liberty schools because a levy the district had hoped to pass last year was not renewed.

“This really is a shot in the arm,” Tommelleo said. “It is providing us some dollars to make sure we can make some needed repairs.”

BOARDMAN, CANFIELD, POLAND

Boardman schools Treasurer Terry Armstrong said the district received $786,508 during the first allocation of ESSER funds.

“We have spent $691,804 thus far,” Armstrong said. “We have spent those funds on upgrading technology to support remote learning and tech support.”

District officials have had preliminary discussions about ESSER II funds, but no firm decisions about how that money will be spent.

Superintendent Tim Saxton said the disrict will look at whether it is possible to do some HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) and other infrastructure improvements.

“One of the major goals of those funds will be for student supports in catching students up,” Armstrong said. “This will likely include a robust summer school program as well as afterschool programming.”

Canfield school district received $164,072 in the first round of funding and is expected to receive $617,651 in the second round.

Superintendent Joseph Knoll said the first round of money was used to add custodians for the cleaning and sanitizing of buildings, additional tutors, and special service aides to assist students, as well as some Google-based learning programs.

Knoll said the administration will discuss the use of this money with school board members in upcoming meetings.

Poland interim Superintendent Edwin Holland said the majority of its $497,359 likely will be used to replace a boiler system in the district’s middle school.

“The timing of this couldn’t be better,” Holland said. “These funds can be used for the improvement of air circulation systems.”

The cost of the new system is projected to be between $700,000 and $800,000.

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