Huntsville-area school systems preview plans for federal stimulus dollars

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – Remote learning is at the top of mind for many parents and students after the three Madison county area school systems announced their plans for the start of school

However, local educators are working to plan out how to use the anticipated 9 week virtual learning period effectively.

The Alabama Board of Education was recently given $70 million for COVID-19 health care grant funding, and an additional $100 million for remote learning initiatives.

“One thing that we’ve already talked about and I mentioned earlier was providing internet access for maybe parents and families and students who don’t have that access,” said Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Christie Finley.

Madison City Schools Superintendent Ed Nichols said his districts goals are similar.

“In our district, we are looking at technology. We’re going to purchase 2500 more laptops and hotspots and that’s probably true across the other districts as well.”

Officials in both Huntsville and Madison City Schools said they’re working to create safe and healthy on-site environments, in the event students are cleared to return to schools.

“I think most of us on that first round probably used it for PPE and cleansing supplies and things that we were trying to assemble,” Nichols added.

Madison City Schools said its in talks with school nurses to ensure they have adequate supplies and can construct isolation areas that may be needed for symptomatic students.

Finley said all three area districts are on the same page as far as PPE and nurses needs. Except HCS has already identified extra space in its schools that can be used to isolate students.

Both administrators said there’s another form of government funded health care that will be priority for students and staff upon their hopeful return.

“Not only just physical healthcare, mental health care,” explained Nichols.

“The state department has given us money to look at additional mental health coordinators and supports in our district,” Finley added. “I think that’s equally important we can talk about instruction all day but the building of relationships is one major piece of education.”

Being that this has been the longest stint many students have gone without physically being in schools, all three school systems are preparing to help those having trouble with the adjustments.

Since Governor Ivey awarded the money in the form of grants, school districts will need to apply for the funds.

Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey anticipates each school system to receive about $70,000 in addition to monies determined by factors like enrollment numbers and proficiency levels.

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