Greater Johnstown, other local school districts to receive millions in windfall relief funding

Joshua Byers, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·3 min read

Mar. 30—Greater Johnstown School District is set to receive more than $25 million in new COVID-19 relief funds.

That money is part of $4.9 billion designated for Pennsylvania as part of the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.

"These funds are extremely appreciated and important for our district to re-coup lost learning that has occurred during building closures and remote learning," Greater Johnstown Superintendent Amy Arcurio said. "It also gives us an opportunity to use these dollars to provide facility upgrades to help lesson the spread of the virus and keep our school environment safe for our students."

Greater Johnstown School District received roughly $12.8 million in January with the second round of funds, and about $2 million in May of last year during the first distribution.

According to the state Department of Education, Blacklick Valley School District will get $3,245,020 in this distribution; Cambria Heights, $1,896,705; Central Cambria, $2,497,000; Conemaugh Valley, $2,061830; Ferndale Area, $2,484,952; Forest Hills, $3,341,568; Conemaugh Township Area, $1,092,203; North Star, $2,355,386; Northern Cambria, $2,238,165; Penn Cambria, $3,126,652; Portage Area, $1,896,331; Richland, $2,066,295; Shade-Central City, $827,031; Somerset Area, $4,620,521; Westmont Hilltop, $1,987,640; and Windber Area, $2,916,771.

"All schools have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and I commend school communities for rising to the challenge to combat the toll it has taken," Gov. Tom Wolf said in a Monday release. "This extra funding is critical to help schools meet the unique needs of educating students at this time while keeping school buildings safe when students return to the classroom."

At least 20% of the money must be used to address learning loss and the social, emotional and academic needs of underrepresented students.

That includes those from low-income families, English learners, students with disabilities, those experiencing homelessness and children in foster care.

Arcurio said the school district will do that through the hiring of supportive personal to bring tier-3 one-to-one interventions to the students to re-coup lost learning.

The rest of the funding can be put toward a wide range of initiatives, including technology purchases, professional training, after-school program and mental health supports, according to the release from Wolf's office.

All of the ESSER III money must be used by September 2024.

Despite the monetary boost, Arcurio noted the temporary nature of the funding.

"We know this money will disappear in the short term," she said. "This money ... does not replace the overall funding that our students need for long-term sustainable opportunities for access to college and careers."

Around 90% of the nearly $5 billion designated for this round will go to public and charter schools, proportional to federal Title I-A funds received last year under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The remaining money will be used by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for interventions that address learning loss, comprehensive after-school programs and summer enrichment, as well as to assist schools that do not receive a direct allocation, such as career and technical schools and intermediate units.