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Charleston Co. Schools to come up with spending plan for millions in federal funds

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 3:27 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District is set to receive millions of dollars from federal funds, and district leaders are trying to determine how best to use the money.

The district is receiving three rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds from the federal government which are provided to state educational agencies and school districts to address needs from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first round was approved in the Spring of 2020, and the money was geared towards getting school districts to a position where they could safely provide instruction to children.

Charleston County has been using those funds, roughly $13 million, to design safety protocols and support needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

District leaders say once they finish coming up with a plan for the second round of funds, the money will be used to continue the support they were able to provide from the money used in the first round of funds.

“We have had a real challenge in K through 12 in kids not being able to stay abreast of their studies. So, we’re putting in place things like summer learning and tutoring programs to make sure we can recover from those learning losses,” CCSD Chief Financial and Administrative Officer Don Kennedy said. “Then we’ll start using some of those ESSER II funds and migrate over to the ESSER III of the American Rescue Plan to really address some of the systemic nature of our challenges in K-12. We will not receive any of the funds until we submit a plan to each funding source to the state and then once the state approves them, we can begin spending.”

The school district is also trying to come up with a plan for the third round of funding in which the district will receive $163.1 million.

Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait says the first priority with all the money will be to help students who have fallen behind due to the pandemic. The next priority will be to help students who were already performing below grade level before the pandemic even began.

“The opportunity to use funding to impact systemic change is one that comes along only once a career in terms of the magnitude of funds that we will be receiving,” Postlewait said. “The responsibility of spending those funds wisely is something that causes us great concern and inspires us to be wise and include all the possible thought partners in our community as we move forward.”

The district’s plan is to create a planning committee and conduct a needs assessment based on data available to the school district. The group will them make a series of recommendations to the community for input.

There will be a series of feedback meetings to listen to the community’s input and suggestions before district officials come up with an official plan for the money that they will bring to the school board for consideration.

District leaders hope to have a first-year plan to submit to the state by the end of August.

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