Over the course of the pandemic public school systems have received three rounds of federal relief dollars to help address any issues related to the virus, including learning loss and ensuring students and staff are provided a safe and healthy teaching and learning environment.

In March of 2020 the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, was signed into law. The bill contained funds to deliver relief to those experiencing hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, from keeping small businesses paying salaries and meeting other expenses to supporting education and infrastructure, and also delivering checks to qualifying individuals and some dependent children.

Included in that were funds for public schools systems.

Specifically, $1.5 million for Daviess County Public Schools and $1.5 million for Owensboro Public Schools

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act passed in December 2020, and with it DCPS received an additional $8.1 million and OPS received $6.3 million.

The CRRSA was, at that time, considered by Kentucky Department of Education officials to be the largest and most flexible allocation of discretionary funds for K-12 school in history.

Those funds would be used for addressing learning loss due to the pandemic, including payment for methods of assessment and tracking; repairs and improvements to school buildings related to health needs and cutting disease transmission; to pay for nurses, mental health professionals and emergency leave days for employees; as well as teacher salaries to support intervention and remediation services, along with substitute teachers when regular personnel are absent on COVID-19 isolation or quarantine.

More than $2 billion was made available to Kentucky public schools in spring of this year through the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

Those funds could be spent to help schools safely reopen and sustain safe operations of schools, and to address the impact of the coronavirus on students.

OPS received $13.6 million in ARP funding, and DCPS received $17.5 million.

All of these funds are federal, and under the current provisions, school districts are to be reimbursed for all funds spent within the parameters of the acts.

Districts have until September 2024 to spend the last round of funding.

Sara Harley, DCPS director of finance, said the district has spent about $8 million of the total $27.1 million funds thus far.

“Most of the funding has been spent on additional instructional staff, summer school, and addressing COVID,” she said. “We have had to purchase additional cleaning chemicals, custodial equipment, and of course, PPE.”

Schools received a significant amount of funding to hire additional instructional staff for the next three years, with $2.6 million per year per school being allocated.

Nearly $1 million was spent on DCPS summer school programming, as well, and another $1 million was spent on the Bipolar Ionization Units for all schools and administration buildings to help with ventilation, Harley added.

Other purchases and commitments the district made with these funds include: purchasing Chromebooks for all students; devices for all teachers; additional nurses and health room staff; additional mental health support; and salary supplements for all contract staff for duties related to COVID-19.

John David Sandefur, OPS chief financial officer, said of the total $21.4 million pandemic relief funding, the district has spent about $5.6 million, 45% of which was spent on payroll for added positions and summer programming.

Specifically, $2.5 million was spent on payroll, which includes new hires and additional payments to educators for summer school programs. Since the start of the pandemic, the district has made a total of 60 new hires, most of which are all school-level positions.

“Schools were asked what they needed in terms of positions, and then we gave them an allocation of funds based on their enrollment,” he said. “We allowed for the positions to be posted for three years.”

The district also has spent a total of $1.8 million on technology, providing every student with a Chromebook.

“The next largest expense item was for supplies like masks, cleaning materials, and all of those things that we would not have had to purchase if not for COVID,” he said. “That total was $536,000.”

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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