RSS budgeting for tens of millions in federal COVID-19 relief funding

Published 12:10 am Sunday, May 9, 2021

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools is budgeting for tens of millions in federal relief dollars allocated by Congress in the previous six months.

The RSS Board of Education will hear about the process and how the funds can be used during its Monday meeting.

RSS is returning to in-person meetings, but space is limited. You can register to attend the meeting beginning at 4 p.m. by visiting the district’s website at rssed.org and navigating to the board meeting page through the “About” tab. The meeting will also be live streamed at vimeo.com/rssboe.

Relief acts passed by Congress in December and March dedicated $54.3 billion and $122.7 billion to education, respectively, not including the $13.5 billion that was part of the CARES Act passed last March.

As a result, Rowan-Salisbury Schools has created a budget requesting $20.4 million from the December bill and $45.6 million from the March bill. All of the funding must be used for COVID-19 expenditures and the allotments will expire on Sept. 30 of 2023 and 2024. The district must submit an application to be approved by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction that includes allowable expenses. Spending of the funds will be monitored and audited by the state as well.

RSS Director of Federal Programs Jerri Hunt will walk the district Board of Education through how the funds can be used, which differs between the two bills.

The funds can be used to address learning loss, prepare schools for reopening, improving air quality in school buildings and meet student’s academic, social and emotional needs.

When the district receives funding, it will be required to create a web page for the March round with a back to school plan and gather public comments for 30 days.

Other agenda items for the school board’s Monday meeting include:

• The district is at the end of a three-year contract with a monitoring service that oversees student interactions on district devices. It has a contract with Gaggle, a company that monitors all student email, Google Hangouts and Drive contents for “threats, incidents of self harm, bully and other inappropriate or concerning behavior.”

District administration will recommend renewing the contract for a total of about $340,000 over three years.

• District administration will recommend the board approve the Alternative Schools Progress Model as outlined by the state to continue as the accountability model for Henderson Independent School. The accountability model has to be approved every year and includes different components to the models of traditional schools.

• The board will receive its regular COVID-19 update from Associate Superintendent Kelly Withers.

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About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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