June 06, 2021

Newark school principals are asking families and educators to share how the district plans to spend $ 84 million in federal aid.

The district must collect public contributions to apply for the millions of federal coronavirus aid funds allocated to Newark by May 14, Superintendent Roger León said at a virtual community meeting on Wednesday.

Residents can use a poll – due Monday – to explain how they think the funds should be used, León said.

“Many of you have said: ‘You know the district, historically you have done whatever you want.’ This is the day we say … we won’t do that, “said León. “This is a very important stakeholder series.”

He stressed that public recommendations must fall under “permitted uses”, which include, but are not limited to, mental health services, summer courses, training and professional development, and the provision of technology for online learning.

As part of the requirement to apply for the aid funds, local school districts will need to consult with stakeholders and consider public input when developing a plan for how the money will be used, the federal education ministry said in a press release.

Newark officials met with stakeholders in April, including elected officials, school principals, union presidents, students, parents and teachers, and held a virtual community meeting on Wednesday.

“If COVID could have done anything positive … it is definitely this allocation of those dollars to change the lives of all students and their families,” León said. “When we raise our children better, we have a profound impact on the community.”

Newark previously received more than $ 19 million in federal pandemic aid that was spent on face masks, air purifiers, laptops, and other COVID-related expenses. The district will soon receive a third injection of federal aid, which is expected to be about twice as high as the second aid package. At least 20% of this money has to compensate for the learning loss.

León mentioned that every student in the district has been given a Chromebook or laptop if they need one, although some families have complained about faulty devices and unreliable internet connections.

Starting in September, the one-to-one tuition program will continue by providing each kindergarten child with a new Chromebook to take home and keep until fifth grade. After that, they’ll get a new device, he said. These students will get new equipment again in ninth grade, he said.

During the meeting, attendees shared some ideas for the federal money in a chat box, including setting up a parenting resource center, after-school activities, and a pantry and clothing store.

The district must spend at least $ 5 million on accelerated learning and $ 194,805 on mental health support and services, and can use the remaining $ 79 million for other purposes.

“We are not prevented from spending more [in these categories], but we have to spend at least that amount, “said business economist Valerie Wilson.

Wilson added that the funds could cover expenses related to the pandemic as of March 13, 2020, and the entire amount allocated to the district must be spent by October 13, 2023.

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit public education news organization. Sign up for their newsletter here.