Schoolcraft eyes uses for pandemic relief funds

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft School District expects to receive more than $1.3 million in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. How to use the pandemic-related relief funds isn’t a simple matter, the board was told.

Finance Director Kendra Drewyor and Elementary Principal Matt Webster gave short presentations on the district’s allocation of three segments of the funds.

The funds are being distributed through three formulas, with Schoolcraft already receiving ESSER II formula funds of nearly $200,000. The district has used some of this money to hire a new guidance counselor for the high school.

Schoolcraft will also receive ESSER funds in excess of $444,000, and ESSER III equalization formula funds in excess of $700,000. Drewyor said compared to COVID-19 relief funds given last year, these new funds come with strict rules on how they can be spent. All use of them must be thoroughly documented, trustees were told.

“There’s a lot of red tape that comes with that one,” Drewyor said of the ESSER III funds. “We can only spend that on a very small subset group of students.”

More specifically, it means they can only spend that money on low-income students, students learning English, racial or ethic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, or students in foster youth care. Within those groups, only small amounts can be spent on summer school and after school programs. Drewyor said she’s been consulting with other districts which received similar ESSER III payments to gather ideas on how to use the funds.

Webster described results of a survey of parents and staff members on other possible uses of the funds. Most of the responses were from parents. Webster said most indicated they would like to see additional staff hired to help accelerate learning. With teachers, the top opinion for using the money was for increasing services for students with risk factors.

“They’re the closest people to those students who have those risk factors, they aware of what those factors are, they know who those kids are, and that was their number one,” Webster said of the teachers.

Improving indoor air quality and air conditioning and providing additional learning time were also popular as people’s second and third choices for how best to use the funds.

In other news, Superintendent Rick Frens noted the district is closely monitoring a staffing shortage. It has had many staff absent recently due to COVID concerns and already planned medical procedures. It is not a huge problem yet, but administrators are keeping an eye on it.

Frens also said the district did a review of safety procedures in the wake of the Oxford High School shooting north of Detroit. He noted administrators are looking at ways to improve internal communications. Frens suggested the possibility of a radio system and possibly the addition of security cameras. He noted some of the ESSER funds might be used for these purposes.

While the district hasn’t had any threats against any building, Frens said the staff would treat any as a real threat. He encouraged parents to closely monitor what their children are doing and saying. Frens said “just joking” would not be acceptable as an excuse.

“We will take those threats seriously,” Frens said.

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