Charleston Co. School District reveals ESSER III funding proposals

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 4:33 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2022 at 6:46 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - There are 71 proposals all vying for federal COVID-19 relief dollars aimed at addressing the learning loss during the pandemic. The Charleston County School District has $163,231,134 in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund III to distribute to programs and organizations that will help students deal with the effects of the pandemic.

During Monday’s school board meeting, the district revealed for the first time the names of the groups that have submitted proposals through the district’s online portal.

All of the proposal were vetted through an advisory team with the exception one of the most expensive and controversial proposals – Reimagine Schools.

“I would propose that we take Reimagine School along with the other 70 proposals. . . I don’t know who the Reimagine School proposal came from, but what I wanted to do tonight was make sure the board understand that we have 71 proposals,” said Don Kennedy, interim superintendent. “I have never seen this level of community support in any issue that sustains itself this long.”

Sarah Johnson is a community member who keeps a close eye on what’s happening at the district. She says she doesn’t understand how Reimagine is now being considered with the ESSER projects even after the board voted to remove it from the agenda until further notice and even though it didn’t go through the vetting process.

“Why did they get special treatment?” Johnson asked. “There’s a big concern about the Reimagine proposal. Why does it keep coming up? Why did it get special attention? Why hasn’t it gone away after the community has very loudly, very clearly come together not wanting to go that route?”

The superintendent’s staff grouped each proposal based on the dollar amount requested. There are two groups that have requested more than $30 million. The Coastal Community Foundation’s Reimagine Schools is one of the proposals. The other proposal comes from the North Charleston based Charity Foundation.

While the names of the organizations were unveiled at Monday’s meeting, the actual proposals have still not been made public. Kennedy and staff members also did not elaborate during the meeting on who is part of the committee doing the vetting of the proposals.

“There definitely has not been any transparency at all about who’s on the committee, and if the committee met where are their meeting minutes and where are these proposals,” Johnson said. “If they’ve been reviewed by those committees then they have they should been put up on the website. That’s how it works.”

Johnson is concerned that all of the proposals come from outside organizations when ESSER money is specifically geared toward helps schools and teachers better provide for students. ESSER dollars can be used for support and wrap around services for things like tutoring.

“The money needs to go directly to the schools, directly to the classroom,” Johnson said. “We talked about the after school and the summer camps, those are things that can help and so you know, there could be some community partnerships.”

The district is working on a community engagement plan for further evaluating the proposals and assigning them grades based on how closely each one lines up with the district’s goals. The key end goal for the district is getting students to read at a 5th grade level by the time they’re in 5th grade. The committee working on those grades is expected to present a report to the board on March 14.

The district is expected to a have more detailed report at the next Committee of the Whole Meeting in February.

Along with the two proposals valued at more than $30 million, there are several proposals requesting more than $1 million:

  • Community Resource Center
  • Wings for Kids
  • Community Education & Rural Socio-economic Development
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of the Crescent Region – BEYOND
  • Begins With Books
  • Core4Success
  • Raising the Bar Leadership Project
  • Reading Partners

There are eight more proposals requesting between $500,000 and $1 million:

  • Tri-county Digital Equity and Inclusion Initiative with Reconstruction
  • Carolina Teen Center
  • Power-On Project with Engaging Creative Minds
  • WePickle Charleston, LLC
  • The Drive Foundation
  • OH STEM Bus
  • IXL Learning, Inc

The rest of the proposals are all less than $500,000.

There are 54 proposals being considered valued at less than $500,000.
There are 54 proposals being considered valued at less than $500,000.(CCSD)

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