Local schools to share in $1.8 billion COVID relief funding

Rebecca Bibbs, The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.
·3 min read

Apr. 20—ANDERSON — Schools serving Madison County area communities will share in $1.8 billion from the Indiana Department of Education under the federal American Rescue Plan.

The rescue plan is part of the same law that distributed the latest round of stimulus money to Americans.

"Over the past year, this is the third round of federal funding allowing many Indiana schools access to unprecedented resources to sustainably invest in their future," said Katie Jenner, Indiana's secretary of education.

"While the needs may vary from one school to the next, it's critical that schools are strategically planning to maximize their return on investment, in turn achieving the greatest outcomes for students."

The education money is intended to assist districts with closing the learning gap caused when students were unable to attend in-person classes and were educated at home during the COVID-19 pandemic that started in March 2020.

Available for use through September 2024, the funding is believed to be the largest-ever amount of federal money given to Indiana schools at one time.

Nationwide, the funds are part of a total of $170.3 billion earmarked under the American Rescue Plan for schools.

The money is not being distributed to private schools in this round. However, an additional $78 million is expected to be released later.

The American Rescue Plan includes provisions about how the money can be used. For instance, at least 20% of the funds must go toward addressing learning loss through evidence-based summer school, after-school and extended school year programs. The one-time funds also may be used to reimburse other expenses related to COVID-19, such as facility modifications.

As the largest district in the area, Anderson Community Schools will receive the largest amount, more than $26 million.

ACS interim Superintendent Joe Cronk, who described the money as a blessing, said district officials are still deciding how the money will be used but said two programs it will support already are in the works.

"One is the twice weekly after-school supplemental instruction. Second, we are planning the largest, most robust summer school program at ACS in many years," he said. "Both of these items will directly address the learning loss suffered during the COVID-19 epidemic."

Some money also may be used as direct grants for teachers to use in innovative ways, Cronk said.

"The federal money presents what may be the best chance to get needed programs into classrooms, directly in front of our students," he said.

Alexandria Community Schools Superintendent Melissa Brisco said the funds are a great investment in schools, staff, and students. Her rural district will receive more than $3.2 million.

"Alexandria Community Schools is currently in the planning phase to determine the best ways to use the funds," she said. "We intend to direct our focus on finding ways to support students and educators' social-emotional needs, continue to find innovative ways to accelerate learning and continue to update facilities to support a healthy learning environment."

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.