The Ladysmith School Board received an update on possible uses for about $1.59 million in coronavirus aid it is anticipating.
The American Rescue Plan Act-Local Fiscal Recovery Funds are being provided by the U.S. Department of Treasury to help local governments recover from the Coronavirus pandemic. The ARPA funds follow other COVID-19 economic relief the district has received, including Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund II (HEERF II) funds authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds also known as the CARES Act stimulus bill.
Often they are just referred to as ESSER I, ESSER II and ESSER III funds in the order they were received.
CARES closes in September 2022. CRRSAA closes in September 2023. ARPA closes in September 2024.
In total, the Treasury Department is responsible for managing over $1 trillion in American Rescue Plan programs and tax credits.
The board was presented with results from recent surveys with 56 responses from parents and 55 responses from staff members.
“That is why we are here tonight, and that is to get some feedback from our stakeholders,” School District Administrator Laura Stunkel said.
Districts receiving ARPA aid must develop and post a safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services plan, develop a plan for funds based on local stakeholder engagement, reserve 20 percent of funds for evidence based improvement strategies and ensure maintenance of equity to high poverty schools and Ensure all costs prepare for, respond to or prevent COVID-19. They also must use a minimum of 20 percent of funds to address the academic impact of lost instructional time and respond to the academic, social, emotional and mental health needs of all students through evidence-based improvement strategies.
Twenty percent of the district’s $1.59 million in ARPA aid is $318,408.
The board will approve a 2021-22 school year budget later this month, which will include the ARPA aid.
School officials have allocated the district’s $1.59 million of ARPA aid toward additional staff salaries and benefits, technology, curriculum, facility upgrades, summer school and credit recovery and auditorium upgrades.
“What we have really targeted is these areas,” Stunkel said.
Facility upgrades received strong support in both surveys, backed in many staff surveys and 94.7 percent of parents. Staff survey results were broken down into areas to focus on including 76 percent supporting heating/ventilating at Ladysmith Middle & High School, roof replacement at LMHS, earthwork at LMHS and wood/metal shop air filtration.
Curriculum upgrades and professional staff development received strong support in both surveys, backed by 98.1 percent of staff and 94.5 percent of parents. This would cover purchase of new curriculum resources for K-12 math, literacy, science and social studies.
Technology upgrades also received strong support in both surveys, backed by 80.4 percent of staff and 76.8 percent of parents. This would cover purchase of additional chromebooks, initiative screens and microphones for face-to-face and virtual modes of instruction.
Credit recovery also received strong support in both surveys, backed by 60.4 percent of staff and 58.9 percent of parents. This would cover credit recovery options for students that are credit deficient.
Less support was shown for summer school in both surveys, backed by 51 percent of staff and 58.9 percent of parents. This would include additional school supplies.
Less support was shown for auditorium upgrades in both surveys, backed by 48 percent of staff and 46.4 percent of parents. This would include purchase of audio interface, software and soundboard to be used for concerts, graduations and livestreaming benefitting athletics and music programs.
Teacher surveys also addressed funding staffing positions with LMHS special education, classroom paraprofessional and elementary evening custodian each backed in 50 percent of responses. Other survey results included support for elementary nurse paraprofessional at 47.9 percent,LMHS reading interventionist at 41.7 percent, LMHS guidance counselor at 37.5 percent, pre-kindergarten teacher at 35.4 percent, summer support staff hours at 20.8 percent, LMHS summer groundskeeper at 25 percent and “other” at 10.4 percent.
Parent surveys also showed strong support for salaries and fringe benefits going toward additional staff to assist with academic support, mental health, cleaning and nurse services, backed in 85.7 percent of results. Overwhelmingly, parents backed support for academics followed by mental health, custodians and nurse’s aide.
The survey will continue to be updated, according to Stunkel.
“This is our initial feedback from parents,” Stunkel said.
Teacher Kyle Jeffress asked the board to seek additional input from staff.
“We will never get another opportunity to spend that. I think our staff is a pretty good resource that we should be leaning on and utilizing to come up with ideas,” Jeffress said. “This is generational income that happens to be falling in our lap here.”
District resident Dustin Mataczynski called it “great” the district is seeking public input on how to spend the coronavirus aid. He also backed letting staff help direct spending to meet the public’s survey responses.
“I do agree the staff needs to have an opportunity to direct what the money is being spent on,” Mataczynski said. “The staff should have the opportunity to choose the tools they use that make that happen easiest for them.”
In other matters, the school board:
— Approved Ladysmith Middle & High School roof repair bids from Rice Lake company, Paul’s Sheet Metal, the only bidder for the work. Approved were $32,076 for repairs to 1,914 square feet of flat roof over the “G-Classroom” area and $19,409 for repairs to 960 square feet of flat roof over the “T-Classroom” area. Paul’s Sheet Metal was recently hired to replace gym roofing, and this new work is being added on.
— Approved the first reading of a new field trip policy. A second reading and action will be at the board’s next meeting. The previous policy was two sentences and provided little direction. The new policy would address overnight and out of country travel.