SLCSD to get $5 million in COVID aid

District has to spend it all

SARANAC LAKE — The Saranac Lake Central School District is set to receive more than $5 million in federal aid through two coronavirus relief acts. Now, as administrators and the school board figure out how to spend it, they say they want the money to have the best impact it can.

At the school board’s Wednesday meeting Superintendent Diane Fox said the district will get about $3.5 million through the American Rescue Plan and $1.5 million through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. The catch is, they have to spend it all.

Fox said New York is asking districts to spend this money. If the state does not show the federal government it is spending all the money, the feds will ask for it back. The administration’s directive, Fox said, is to create plans, vet them and fund them.

She said staff members are currently weighing in on the plans, and she is weaving their comments into the plans, which she called a “work in progress.”

Board member Jeremy Evans asked if the district can create a way to determine that the money it is spending is achieving its intended results.

“Even if the federal government doesn’t care where the money gets spent, we should care,” Evans said.

Fox said the goals the district has set must be measurable.

“It’s a great opportunity, and we want to do it right,” she said.

Funds can be spent on maximizing in-person instruction; remedying learning loss brought on by COVID-19 interrupting regular instruction; social, emotional, academic and mental health services; mitigating COVID-19’s impact on low-income students, students with disabilities, those experiencing homelessness, English language learners and students in foster care; summer school, after-school programs and other extended learning programs; early childhood education; educational technology; and school operations.

Fox said the spending plan does not need board approval but that board members and the community should talk about it.

The district does not have much time before it needs to file its first grant submission, though. Fox said they were informed on how they can spend the money on May 27, and the first submission is due on June 30.

She said administrators have identified five areas to spend money on so far.

Fox said the district may introduce extra hours of schooling at the end of the day for elementary schools to remediate COVID-19-related learning loss. It plans to introduce an extracurricular extended school day for kindergarten through fifth-grade students to make up academics lost through time away from the classroom in the past year-and-a-half. This would be a four-day-a-week program where students would stay late and get a ride home, funded through 2024.

Fox also said the district plans to expand its Community School program, which provides families with emergency and everyday aid, including food, school supplies, health care guidance or help finding supportive services.

Other things to spend money on, she said, are targeted instruction, improving nutritional offerings and staying up on technological updates.


(Correction: An earlier version of this article used incorrect dollar amounts. The district will actually get around $5 million in total: around $3.5 million from the American Rescue Plan and $1.5 million, not $5 million, from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. The Enterprise regrets the error.)


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