COVID Relief Funding Community Input & Plan

On Thursday, June 8, BH-BL school administrators held a virtual community forum to share and seek input on the nearly complete spending plan associated with the COVID relief funding that is being granted to school districts over a three-year period. These funds are designed to provide districts with short-term resources to assist in recovering from the effects of the pandemic on the educational process.

BH-BL is slated to receive a total of $4.65 million through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) act and the Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.

Breakdown of Funds

  • Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) $4.65M
    • Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act: $249K (received in 2020)
    • American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act: $1.7M
    • Coronavirus Response & Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act: $2.7M

Superintendent Dr. Patrick McGrath said: “In addition to Tuesday night’s forum, we used well-established structures for collaboration and shared decisions – we’ve convened each schools’ building council team (which is made up of principals, staff and parents) where we gathered input and ideas on the areas they believe are of priority for their buildings. After some back and forth between these groups and the district leadership, we arrived at the proposals we will be submitting for use of our federal funding.”

“It’s important to note that the COVID relief funds are required to be prioritized for non-recurring expenses,” adds Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Dr. Christopher Abdoo.

Here are in the following areas under ESSER where the funding should be dedicated:

  • safely returning students to in-person instruction;
  • maximizing in-person instruction time;
  • operating schools and meeting the needs of students;
  • purchasing educational technology;
    addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students, including the impacts of interrupted instruction and learning loss and the impacts on low-income students, children with disabilities, English language learners, and students experiencing homelessness;
  • implementing evidence-based strategies to meet students’ social, emotional,
  • mental health, and academic needs;
  • offering evidence-based summer, afterschool, and other extended learning and enrichment programs; and
  • supporting early childhood education.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction outlined the tentative plan, in broad strokes, explaining that there are three major areas BH-BL will focus upon. These are Targeted Academic Intervention Services, Social-Emotional Learning & Wellness, and Professional Development & Training.

Target Academic Intervention Services (AIS)

While Collins stated that there’s still more work to be done to learn about the impact this year has had on students’ learning, there’s enough evidence to include additional academic supports for next school year. This includes:

  • add elementary math specialists who will be dedicated to supporting students and teachers;
  • increase math AIS for students in grades 6-8 (during school and/or after school services);
  • reduce class sizes in grades 6-8 to help allows teachers to provide more targeted attention for students;
  • introduce subject specific supports labs for student in grades 9-12 who would benefit from extra guided time in certain academic subjects;
  • add districtwide special education and literacy supports;
  • introduce after-school tutoring services for students in grades K-5;
  • focus on technology integration, districtwide, for students and staff;
  • create more robust World Language and culture experiences for grades K-5; and
  • enhance the district’s summer school program.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) & Wellness

Part of next school year’s general budget includes several additions that are focused on providing students with social-emotional services, explains Collins. This includes the addition of guidance counselors at the elementary level and replacing a retiring counselor at the high school. In doing this, more doors will open for other social-emotional & wellness supports that can be supported with the COVID relief grant monies, such as:

  • Assigning a Director of Counseling and SEL Programs;
  • adding Elementary Guidance Counselors;
  • creating a comprehensive K-12 Counseling Curriculum;
  • introducing Wellness Programming for students; and
  • creating a unified PE Program.

Professional Development & Training

In order to implement the additional services, programs and staffing included in the COVID relief funding plan, there will need to be additional training and professional development for current and new staff, adds Collins. At the forum, Collins outlined the need for additional specialized reading training,  Inclusive Practices professional development,  SEL and ACES training, and additional Character Education Opportunities.

For those who were unable to attend the Community Forum, a recording of the forum is now available. [WATCH RECORDING] If after watching the forum there are questions, please do not hesitate to contact either Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction David Collins at 518-399-9141, Ext. 85015 or Superintendent Patrick McGrath at Ext. 85002. For questions about the funding act, please contact Assistant Superintendent Chris Abdoo at Ext. 85025.