Schools Move Forward With Plan to Spend Federal COVID Relief Funds

The school district is moving forward with its plans for the use of nearly $21 million in federal Covid relief funds through the fall of 2024.

At last week’s School Committee meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Almi Abeyta and Finance Director Monica Lamboy explained how the use of the ESSER III funds will align with district goals and values over the next three years.

“All of our resources, even in times of emergency, can still help to move the needle forward on our goals, so we use these overarching principles in all of the allocations for our goals,” said Lamboy.

Lamboy said that a big chunk of the ESSER III funds will be used to help continue funding over 67 positions that were created and funded thanks to a previous round of Covid relief funding.

“We are  not facing a fiscal cliff where we have to eliminate these positions because we have our ESSER III resources available,” said Lamboy. All of the positions that were created under the previous round of funding will continue under ESSER III, she said.

Overall, the spending plan for the ESSER III funds includes $8.1 million to continue funding the 67-plus positions through June of 2024, $1 million for curriculum materials and updates, $720,000 for relocating the Chelsea Opportunity Academy, and $250,000 for tutoring programs.

Additionally, there is $587,000 earmarked for Covid preparedness, including temporary nursing and cleaning services; $8.5 million for the design and construction of new HVAC systems at the Early Learning Center, Mary C. Burke Elementary Complex, and Chelsea High School; $375,000 for educational technology; $150,000 for student mental health services; and $700,000 for summer and afterschool programs.

School Committee member Roberto Jimenez Rivera asked how long the school system will be able to support the positions it added for the current school year.

“ESSER III is a real godsend in that we have more time to look at the positions we’ve added and determine the value added for each one and if it should be continued,” said Lamboy. “We have more budget cycles to look at how to make them permanent.”

Lamboy said it is possible that some services may not be needed once the school system is a year or two removed from the pandemic, but she said the ESSER III funding will help ensure there is not a jarring moment when cuts have to be considered for many positions at once.

Jimenez Rivera also asked about how the $1 million in curriculum materials and improvements will be spent.

Abeyta said the district will be doing an audit of its current curricula and looking at strengthening its materials so they are inline with the district’s current standards. She said there will be a commitment to equity with any new curriculum that is implemented in the school system.

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