Gary ISD school board members approved a plan for the use of ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds at their meeting last week.
This is the third round of federal funding for Texas schools that’s been made available, and Gary ISD will be receiving $867,322 for projects.
“Our ESSER funds is basically kinda like COVID relief funds for the school district from the state,” Superintendent Todd Greer said. “(We’re) qualified to apply anyway, and we applied and are in the process of doing that now. There’s a pretty good chunk of money, just several steps you gotta go through. The board has to approve our plan, and then as part of that planning process, we look at that first page, there’s certain people in the district in your community that you have to have.
“Administrators, librarians, IT people, teachers, parent representatives, student representatives, all of the people listed here served on our committee. We’ve met, we will continue to meet as we go through this process and we disperse the funds, so I want to kinda walk you through them on that.”
Greer provided numbers for all the projects they’re hoping to use ESSER funds for, but several of those are construction projects that do not yet have official bids, so the number he gave for those are estimates. There are certain percentages of money you have to spend on certain things, Greer said, and everything on the list of projects meets that criteria.
Construction projects include a playground, the elementary school roof, two classrooms in the old Ag Shop, and bathrooms in the elementary and high school. All of these numbers were estimates.
For the playground, Greer said they were going to the Charles C. Matthews Foundation and getting matching funds, so they’ll be using $100,000 from the Charles C. Matthews Foundation and $100,000 from ESSER III.
The elementary roof, classrooms in the old Ag Shop and the bathrooms were estimated at $100,000 each.
“Two class rooms in the old Ag Shop,” Greer said. “Out here, the old Ag Shop, we have one classroom in it now. The other part really just kinda became junk storage, so we can do something else with, and we’re basically gonna wall it up inside it, and then we can add two classrooms.”
With the bathrooms, they plan to gut them, Greer said.
“Get that old tile that’s 50 or 60 years old,” he said. “It’ll be new tile, new everything, new partitions, new everything in the whole elementary.”
Another project they chose to fund is an elementary character education program called “Leader in Me,” for $63,653, Greer said. This will pay for the first four years of the program. $52,974 is going to curriculum funding for elementary and secondary grades. They’re also funding technology for $179,783, and this will include Macbooks and other items.
$37,500 is to be spent on staff retention bonuses, with every employee in the district getting a one time $500 bonus, Greer said.
“That’s one of the things that’s been real popular throughout the state where the people are doing with that, and we felt like it was something nice we could do...” Greer said. “Just a teaching bonus to say ‘hey you’ve dealt with COVID, you’ve dealt with all this stuff, and it’s been stressful and we appreciate you.’”
The board also plans to use the grant to fund the hire of a secondary interventionist for two years for $100,000 total.
“We have an elementary interventionist, and we’ve talked with Mr. Price, his team, and they felt like at this point, they could really use a person that didn’t have a specific teaching assignment that could just pull students when they’re struggling and do that,” Greer said. “So what we came up with is finding, and they haven’t found anybody yet, but finding somebody that could do this, just understanding it’s funded with a grant, so two years, and the grant’s over and your job will be over unless we find a place for you somewhere else. So he feels like that would help him, so that’s kind of where we decided to go with that.”
With all the money allotted, $33,422 remains.
“As we work through each project, and they come in over or under budget, we’ll tweak those numbers,” Greer said. “That’s part of what that committee will do, so this gives you a good idea where the money’s going and where our thought processes are.”