Upshur County Schools releases plan for spending its allocation of COVID-related relief funding

BUCKHANNON – The superintendent of Upshur County Schools and the school system’s treasurer shared a ‘living document’ with Upshur County Board of Education members during a recent BOE meeting – one that details how the school system plans to spend COVID-related relief grant funds received in 2020 and 2021.

The document, presented by Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus and treasurer Jeffrey Perkins at the BOE’s July 27 meeting, details the tentative plan for spending Upshur County Schools’ allotment of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund monies, which amount to about $15.8 million.

Locally, Upshur County Schools is receiving about $5.3 million from Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act ESSERF funding and approximately $10.5 million from American Rescue Plan Act ESSERF funding – plus some state monies – for a total of $15.8 million.

The ESSERF funds come from the U.S. Department of Education and were made possible by the passages of the 2020 CARES Act and the 2021 ARP Act. Congress set aside approximately $13.2 billion in funding for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, and legislation establishing that fund was signed into law March 20, 2021. The monies were awarded to state educational agencies to address the impact that COVID-19 has had – and continues to have – on elementary and secondary schools across the U.S.

During the July 27 BOE meeting, Perkins briefed board members on the information he and Stankus had provided to the West Virginia Department of Education concerning their plan for executing the spending of the Emergency Relief Funds.

“This is the presentation we brought to State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch and his leadership team,” Stankus said. “These are our plans for the expenditure of the COVID monies.”

Stankus explained the Upshur County Schools leadership team includes all the directors, principals and administrators at the BOE Office.

“We have also included community members, teachers, counselors, service personnel, LSIC members, PTO members and business and industry leaders through the Upshur County Development Authority,” she said.

Stakeholder meetings took place throughout May and June, Stankus explained.

“We looked at our data and we reviewed it continuously,” Stankus said. “We looked at data, and we surveyed our stakeholders to see what they thought our priorities should be for these funds.”

She said the primary focus areas for the spending are learning innovation and recovery; health and safety; infrastructure; and salary offset.

“This includes items like our Summer Learning Academy, which was well-received by our community,” Stankus said. “[It also includes] our one-to-one devices and our touchscreens in the classrooms and the new computers we put into the hands of all of our employees – including bus drivers, aides and cooks – so they can become more proficient with information-sharing.”

Stankus said expenditures intended to keep schools safe, and students, teachers and service personnel as healthy as possible include a new HVAC system at Washington District Elementary School and county-wide HVAC controls. Two other big-ticket items on the list are an outdoor classroom at Buckhannon-Upshur High School and installing updates to the kitchens in the schools because they served a lot of meals during the pandemic, which placed extra stress on the equipment.

Funds received include about $5.3 million, or $5,320,711.44 exactly, and that is comprised of two disbursements from ESSERF and a West Virginia Department of Education Competitive Grant in the amount of $102,200.

The next amount of revenue totals about $10.5 million ($10,573,211.25) and includes SOLE funds, or Student Opportunities for Learning and Engagement funds, intended to supplement summer learning in the ongoing pandemic for $479,933.94; ARP ESSERF funds for about $7.4 million ($7,430,763.20) to reopen and sustain schools and address the impact COVID has had on students; about $2.4 million ($2,432,564.59) to address learning loss; $114,974.76 for summer enrichment; and after-school programs’ funding amounting to $114,974.76.

In the ‘living document,’ expenditures of the funds are listed as follows:

Apple 1-to-1 devices – $2,131,661.75
Touch-screens in classrooms – $330,647.88
Cleaning supplies – $75,000
Air purifiers – $60,000
Janitorial pay – $185,500
PPE (personal protective equipment like masks/face coverings) – $22,500
COVID substitutes – $250,000
Additional equipment – $131,901
Facilities – $150,000
Delivery truck – $100,000
Food service – $600,000
Curriculum/Learning Recovery – $1,283,500.81

Document courtesy of Upshur County Schools

The second set of expenditures include monies set aside for the Washington District Elementary School HVAC; countywide HVAC controls; an outdoor classroom and dining area at B-UHS; architect and engineering fees; and HVAC repairs at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School which total $3,100,000. The final expenditures include COVID-19-related employee expenses for $1 million; evening programs for three years for $750,000; and summer learning experiences through 2024 for about $5.7 million ($5,723,211.25).

In total, the ESSERF Funding and Spending Plan total roughly $15.8 million ($15,893,922.690).

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