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CARE-ing for schools

Districts use funds to help students, staff during pandemic

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Lordstown Elementary School third-grade teacher Mandy Hayslett, left, works with third-grader Easton Adams, 8, on his studies last week. The Lordstown district received $85,507 in CARES Act funds for plastic dividers, laptops and other equipment.

For many school districts across Trumbull County, thousands of federal CARES Act and Ohio Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars made the difference between being able to open or remain closed.

These funds allowed some districts, such as Warren, to provide not only the cleaning and sanitizing equipment needed to have their students in the buildings, but also the Chromebooks and laptops to learn at home.

Other districts, such as LaBrae and Lakeview, are using the federal funds to maintain staffing they would have lost because of budget cuts made by the state early this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Warren City Schools received approximately $3.5 million in federal CARES Act funds. These funds are identified by the district as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.

The majority of those funds, nearly $2 million, is being spent on purchasing laptops, Chromebooks, software and WiFi hotspots for students. Approximately $735,460 already has been spent on the equipment, and another $597,686 has been obligated for future purchases.

Using its ESSER funds, the district purchased 4,073 laptops, 850 iPads and 101 charging stations, and signed a two-year contract for 1,375 hotspots for students. It also purchased 100 computers for teachers and 115 styli pens for teaching. Using non-CARES Act funds, the district purchased 225 computers to be used by teachers and spent $30,508 for software to use them.

When the schools temporarily were shut down in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only a small percentage of the district’s students had the necessary computer equipment and service for online / distance learning.

In an effort to protect its students, staff and other employees, the district has budgeted approximately $1.3 million of the ESSER grant to purchase personal protective equipment, cleaning and sanitizing supplies and equipment, and for hiring professional cleaning services.

About $321,067 already has been spent, approximately $441,812 has been obligated and $518,865 still is available to be used.

Other costs include money for the district purchasing a “remind app,” which is used for communication with families and $84,349 to pay for indirect administrative costs.

A portion of the ESSER grant, $68,906, is allocated for students who go to non-public schools. These are students who live within the city school district area, but whose parents have chosen to send them to private schools.

In addition to the ESSER funds, the district received $292,392 from Ohio’s Coronavirus Relief funds. The district has not used the state’s allocation yet.

LABRAE, CHAMPION

LaBrae Superintendent Anthony Calderone said the school district received about $310,000 in ESSER funds and $59,883 in its Ohio CRF award.

“We are using a significant amount — $250,000 — of the ESSER funds to retain staff we looked at (cutting) due to cuts made by the state earlier this year,” Calderone said. “We are using this money to maintain our staffing because the CARES Act allows us to do it.”

Calderone said if the district had not been allowed to use the CARES Act funds for staffing, personnel would have been cut.

“With these funds, we might be able to hire a part-time nurse,” he said. “We will use some of the money to address transportation needs and obtain safety supplies.”

The district will use the CRF fund to purchase additional technology — computers, Chromebooks, etc.

“We put in orders for Chromebooks in the summer, but we will be lucky to get them before the first of the year,” Calderone said, as demand is high and supplies are delayed.

Champion schools Treasurer Lorena Rouan said the district received $173,154.02 in ESSER funds and $68,931.91 from Ohio’s CRF.

Some of the ESSER money has been used to create isolation rooms in each of the district’s school buildings. The rooms are for students and school employees displaying COVID-19 symptoms.

“Items purchased for these rooms are for required sanitation and disinfecting, along with face shields and gowns, desk shields and thermometers,” Rouan said. “There also be an aide employed in the rooms to handle potential issues.”

In addition, money has been set aside for Families First Coronavirus Response Act extended leave program, which is a statewide program for employees needing to take extended leave for coronavirus-related issues. Employees may take leaves due to their exposure to the virus or to care for family members affected by the virus.

Unlike some school districts, Champion is not expected to use any of its CARES Act money to purchase Chromebooks because every student already was issued devices prior to March 13, when in-person school ended.

Champion schools instead will hire building substitute teachers for the entire year.

“These substitute hires were a direct result of COVID-19,” Rouan said. “As an attempt to maintain as much consistency as possible for our students — who are already entering an unusual year — we are planning for one sub in each building to handle any teacher absence due to FFCRA, if needed,” Rouan said.

GIRARD, LAKEVIEW

Girard schools were awarded $434,495 in ESSER funds and $101,153 in Ohio’s Coronavirus Relief funds.

The district already had 600 laptops / Chromebooks prior to the pandemic. Using the ESSER money, it purchased another 716 devises, using $143,200.

In addition to PPE and cleaning supplies for each of its buildings, the district is using some of its funds to pay for two new E-learning teachers to assist students.

Plastic glass safety dividers were purchased for all desks, including those for teachers, students and administration offices.

“We would not have needed them if the pandemic did not happen,” Amanda Latell, assistant to the Girard schools treasurer, said.

A portion of Girard’s ESSER funds, $59,863, are sent to parochial and private schools where students who live within the school district’s boundaries attend. Other Trumbull school districts that send a portion of their funds to non-public schools include Howland, $35,637; Liberty, $34,718.22; and Warren, $221,954.

Lakeview schools Treasurer Sean Miller said the district will be using the vast majority of its ESSER funds for salaries of new employees, including two clinical aides, as well as maintaining some existing positions. It will use $250,000 of the total $284,604 it was awarded for these employees over the next two years.

The district already has laptops for each of its students, so it is not buying any electronic equipment.

It has purchased 10 thermal scanners at $2,000 apiece and plastic glass for buildings and school buses.

BROOKFIELD,HOWLAND

Brookfield schools have been awarded $277,308.97 in ESSER funds and $58,173.64 in Ohio CRF for a combined total of $334,482,61 in CARES Act funds.

It is purchasing Chromebooks and laptops to ensure a one-to-one ratio of computers to students from the third through 12th grade. Pre-K through second-grade students will have two computers for every student.

The district is estimating it will spend $160,000 for its Chromebooks and another $8,000 for WiFi hotspots. It will spend more than $24,000 for desk dividers and nearly $25,000 for disinfecting sprays.

“We have tried to spend the money on items that will help keep staff and students safe, as well as prepare us if we find ourselves in another distance-learning scenario like we faced this past spring,” Brookfield Superintendent Toby Gibson said.

Howland schools received $523,804,77 in ESSER funds from the federal government. Of this money, $35,673.19 goes to John F. Kennedy Lower Campus, according to Treasurer Samantha Pochedly.

The district used $112,039 of the funds to purchase new 591 Chromebooks to add to the approximately 1,500 Chromebooks already in the district.

Other purchases are PPE, scanners, plastic glass dividers and further equipment to provide safety to employees and students.

Bloomfield-Mespo schools were awarded $385,000 in ESSER funds. It is expected to use about $100,000 for Chromebooks and laptops for students, $25,000 for cleaning supplies and another $25,000 for personal protective equipment.

The salary of a school nurse will be paid for though these funds. An additional $18,000 has been awarded through the state’s CRF. These funds have not been used.

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