ATHENS, Ala. – The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is one of several waves of federal economic relief for school districts across the country. Athens City Schools is looking for community feedback for their investment of those funds.
Because the impacts of the pandemic in education will be felt years from now, the district says they will revisit plans and feedback every few months so the survey will likely stay up for a significant period of time.
“It is very important that we are both getting new feedback from all stakeholders involved but also that we are looking at the plan and saying, ok what might we need to discontinue because that part is no longer relevant,” said Jennifer Sallee, Athens City Schools Federal Programs Administrator.
Currently ACS has been granted $5,711,862 with $1,142,372 of that set aside to addressing learning loss.
Athens City Schools says any community stakeholder can participate.
“The Boys & Girls Club and different kinds of organizations see students in a different arena than we do,” said Sallee.
The grant money can be spent on anything from programming, school staffing, and even infrastructure. Many schools are looking at airflow in buildings along with HVAC technology that can limit the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s on the list but it is a small bit (amount) of it,” said Sallee as she compared that potential project to a list of others.
The money has to help kids return safely to school. Applications can be denied if a spending item doesn’t fit that mold. That means school districts have to walk a fine line when investing their federal relief money. Several districts tell News 19 they continue to get more clarity on what they can and cannot do with the funds. The money also needs to be spread out through September of 2024.
Athens City Schools has already surveyed their staff as to what they believe the money should go towards. Sallee says they welcome any and all ideas because no idea is off the table at this point. Sallee says across the state there has even been some discussion about hybrid grade levels. Meaning a student could be a 2nd and 3rd grader.