About $48.2 million in federal funds is flowing to Wichita Falls ISD for COVID relief. School officials have drawn back the curtain to show how the district is spending the money.
The Texas Education Agency administers the federal funds through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grant programs.
Conversations are ongoing about how to use funds as they are available.
Who decides how to spend the funds?
WFISD officials met with stakeholders including teachers, students, parents and community members, as well as the District Advisory Committee in October to discuss how to spend the grants.
WFISD Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths said the ESSER Committee will meet every six months to talk about how the funding’s being used and possible changes to how it’s being spent.
The next meeting will be in April, and Griffiths plans to update the School Board during that month also on the federal funding.
Griffiths and other administrators went to the School Board for guidance on how to use the federal dollars during an Oct. 12 special meeting.
He briefed trustees with a slide show, available online at www.timesrecordnews.com, showing how the grants are being spent and proposals for how they could be spent to help the district deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three ‘pots’ of funding
The funding is divided into three pots, ESSER I, II and III.
More:WFISD officials seek guidance on vaccine stipend, COVID days
ESSER 1 was for nearly $3.12 million, and the TEA “supplanted” approximately $2.985 million of that funding.
That means the TEA used part of the federal relief dollars to provide WFISD’s allotted portion of state funding. In addition, $7,835 went for supplies for private, nonprofit schools.
With the remaining funds, the district requested changes to pay for a district server, Gaggle — a program that monitors students’ email accounts and other student media for trouble, and more water hydration stations.
ESSER II amounts to about $13.9 million.
Proposals for requested expenses include the following:
● A TEA hold harmless reduction for 2020-2021 of about $2.05 million.
● $500 COVID stipends for staff members fully vaccinated by March 11. WFISD administrators are doing more research into providing the stipend and are expected to return to the School Board with additional information.
● Five COVID days for staff members who miss school days because of a quarantine or infection. The days would be retroactive.
● $250 stipends for vaccinated substitute teachers with an 80 percent job-acceptance rate. They would be provided in May.
● One ESSER Aide per school for the 2021-2022 and the 2022-2023 school years.
● Flexible seating for six high school classrooms, two per campus, to help prepare students for the transition into the new high schools.
● Road to College, an educational program for parents and students
● Upgrade access points
● After-school busing
● Chromebook replacements and repairs. “COVID really hurt us pretty hard because Chromebooks went home and a lot of Chromebooks didn’t come back or they came back broken,” Griffiths told trustees.
● GoGuardian, a program that helps find stolen Chromebooks and shows whether students are doing something they should not be on the computers.
● Training and travel for staff members.
● High school master schedule program. To pilot master scheduling for the two new high schools expected to open in 2024 and make it more efficient.
● Facility repair and upgrades.
● Technology storage for data.
● Social and emotional learning services and therapy. “Some of these students are really having a hard time coming back,” Griffiths said. A stakeholder suggested wrap-around services addressing students, parents and campuses’ needs.
ESSER III totals over $31.2 million. The district received an initial allotment of nearly $20.82 million.
Expenses for ESSER III have included field trips, iPads for fine arts, microscopes and balances for high school science, and a secondary mentoring program for teachers in their first and second years.
In addition, they have included instructional leadership training, reading academy extra-duty pay, sound amplifiers for elementary campuses, hydration stations and during-school substitutes for district trainings.
Expenses paid for by ESSER III have also included elementary and early learning new teacher academies, summer training stipends and special education needs.
WFISD officials requested that ESSER III funds spent for tutoring increase from $33,000 to $275,000 for the 2021-2022 school year to help meet new legislative requirements.
Trustees took no action on the federal funding and proposals for it during the Oct. 12 meeting.
More:Wichita Falls school board hears concerns from parents over safety, campus plans
Trish Choate, enterprise watchdog reporter for the Times Record News, covers education, courts, breaking news, politics and more. Contact Trish with news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Twitter handle is @Trishapedia.