Accomack School Board To Hold Public Hearing On $13M in American Rescue Plan Funds

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By Stefanie Jackson – The Accomack school board will hold a public hearing Tuesday, Aug. 24, to receive comments and vote on a plan to spend more than $13 million from the third round of the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding, about a week before the Sept. 1 application deadline.

Two-thirds of the funding, including nearly $9 million for Accomack, became available April 30.

Karen Downing, of Virginia Organizing, attended the Aug. 17 school board meeting to voice her concern that the school division had not been “pro-active” about planning to spend the funds.

An April 30 letter from Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane informed all division superintendents that within 90 days of receiving ESSER III funds, each school division must publish on its website a plan for spending the money.

Accomack’s plan was not available the morning of Mon., Aug. 16, but it was made public before the school board meeting Tuesday – about three-and-a-half months after the state superintendent’s correspondence.

Finance Director Beth Onley reviewed the plan Tuesday night, which proposed purposes for all but $1.8 million of the $13.3 million in total allocated funding.

All spending must relate to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 20% of the funds must be spent to address learning losses.

Proposed spending under the category of COVID-19 prevention and mitigation included:

  • Nearly $635,000 to continue employing additional part-time custodians for three years.
  • About $521,000 to upgrade health clinic assistants to full time and continue their employment for three years.
  • About $468,000 for additional playground equipment and mulch at the elementary schools.
  • Nearly $133,000 for two cafeteria monitors at each elementary and middle school for two years.
  • About $135,000 for a two-year supply of disinfectant for electrostatic sprayers and other cleaning measures.
  • $100,000 to separate school clinics into two sections for “sick” students (with COVID-19 symptoms) and “well” students (with any other condition).

Other proposed COVID-19 prevention and mitigation-related expenditures included a full-time health assistant, a two-year supply of disposable face masks, personal protective equipment and sanitation for the band and chorus programs, and 16 additional UV water coolers.

Examples of proposed expenditures to address learning losses were:

  • About $1.25 million for two additional instructional assistants at each Accomack school – except Tangier Combined School, which will get one extra instructional assistant – each to be employed three years.
  • More than $1.1 million to pay teachers stipends for after-school programs for three years.
  • Nearly $1 million to pay teachers summer school stipends for three years.
  • Nearly $658,000 to employ a full-time substitute teacher at each Accomack school, except Tangier, for three years.
  • About $435,000 to employ additional assistant principals at Kegotank and Metompkin elementary schools for three years.

Proposed spending on student academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs included around $362,000 for two additional guidance counselors and $172,000 for one additional mental health counselor, each for three years.

Other funding uses were proposed, such as $700,000 for bell, clock, and intercom upgrades, and $300,000 to install video cameras capable of 360-degree views on school bus stop sign arms.

Virginia Organizing members elaborated on their concerns after the Aug. 17 school board meeting and criticized the spending plan for its late-summer release, incorporating little to no public input, and the unsustainability of the new employment positions over the long term.

The full plan can be found at https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/accomack/Board.nsf/files/C5YMJC5B1951/$file/American%20Rescue%20Plan_Revised.pdf

The Accomack school board encouraged community participation in the upcoming public hearing and will accept suggestions for spending the $1.8 million that remains unpurposed.

The public hearing will be Tuesday, Aug. 24, 6 p.m., at Metompkin Elementary School.

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