Those in the Fort Wayne Community Schools district will see changes to its schools over the next few years due to Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund grants from the Indiana Department of Education providing millions of dollars to the district.

At the FWCS Board of School Trustees meeting Nov. 22, the board approved two recommendations regarding the ESSER II and ESSER III grants. The only member not in attendance was Secretary Julie Hollingsworth, and Rohli Booker participated by phone.

How these grants work is the district spends the money to upgrade various things, and the state reimburses them.

ESSER II funds were established in December 2020 by the federal government as a continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to information from the FWCS Board packet, school districts are afforded the additional funds to respond to the effects of the shutdown and unexpected changes in learning environments for the foreseeable future.

The board approved the acceptance of $44,883,919.41 for the 2021-2023 school years from the IDOE. That money needs to be spent by 2023.

This money can be used for facilities upgrades for indoor air quality, technology for remote learning, internet connectivity, staffing, health services and supplies and professional learning.

FWCS is using about $7.6 million of the funding to provide stipends to FWCS personnel employed during the pandemic’s height in the 2020-21 school year.

As for the ESSER III grant, the board approved the acceptance of $100,802,907 to be used in the 2021-2024 school years. The grant was created in March 2021 to help schools weather the pandemic as well.

While the funds may be used similarly to ESSER II money, this grant requires school districts to allocate 20% of the funds to specifically address learning loss. The board packet provided districtwide summer-school programming for the next three years and additional instructional personnel added to most buildings as examples of ways to spend the money.

Board member Noah Smith asked if this approximately $145 million was what Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend expected when the amounts were finally released. She confirmed that these amounts were as she thought.

Smith asked if the money was already allocated.

“Yes, we have,” Friend said. ”As you’ve seen, there have been a lot of facilities projects that have come forward. It’s been nice that we have been able to renovate some of these buildings according to the requirements that these grants provide for.”

Friend revealed that almost half of the funds would be used to improve facilities.

Board member Stephen Corona shared his opinion on the funds.

“I think this is a terrific opportunity to really do some things that we always wanted to,” Corona said. “Over the next two or three years, we really do have the cash to make sure that more of our third-graders are reading and able to be successful in class as they move forward.”

The board also:

  • Recertified FWCS Electoral Districts.
  • Heard about South Side High School’s upcoming trip to Canada.
  • Approved the Bowen Center as the provider for the Employee Assistance Program and the Student Assistance Program.
  • Heard a presentation from the Warehouse Services Department.

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