Waterloo School Board talks ESSER funding


At last week’s Waterloo School Board meeting, the board discussed pandemic-related funding and decided on next school year’s calendar. 

John Schmieg, the district’s curriculum coordinator, gave a presentation reviewing how the district allocated previous American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funds and the ESSER III committee’s proposed expenditures for the third round. 

Through ESSER III, the district is expecting to receive $988,094 in federal and state funding. Certain portions of the funding had to be reserved for addressing learning loss, summer enrichment, after-school supports and more that the district has incurred or will incur between March 2020 and September 2024.

“Now that we’re looking like we’re on the other side of (the pandemic), for now at least, we are starting to get a bigger picture of how students have been impacted and how staff have been impacted, and I think you’re going to see that some of the funds we are proposing addresses those things,” Schmieg told meeting attendees. 

Perhaps the largest need presented by district employees and community members alike at the committee meeting was for more social workers. As a result, the committee proposed that approximately $144,000 go toward hiring and maintaining an additional social worker at the high school and an additional elementary social worker for 2022-23. 

Portions of the almost $1 million total will go toward the cost of maintaining an additional K-3 reading teacher and three elementary class size reduction teachers for 2021-23. 

These were expenditures the board had previously committed to, Schmieg said. 

“Knowing that ESSER III funds were coming, we hired some people. So we hired some class size reduction teachers at the elementary school, that was one example,” Schmieg said. 

In total, the committee proposed over 60 percent of ESSER III funds be allocated toward the pandemic-related need for additional staff, teachers and paraprofessionals, including the salaries and benefits of employees working summer school. 

According to Schmieg’s estimations, roughly $38,000 will be used to pay teachers for before and after school, and sometimes summer, curriculum planning throughout 2022 and 2023. In a typical year, educators carve out time in the school day for these meetings, but with the sub shortage and other pandemic scheduling complications, this is no longer feasible. 

The committee proposed that approximately $31,000 be allocated toward learning loss tutoring, social-emotional learning and focused study hall. 

“All of these are focused on kids not performing at grade level and trying to meet those needs. Some of the comments that were received from the public were ‘Well that seems a little low.’ The public also didn’t see that we had this built in for two other grants,” Schmieg said. 

The committee proposed approximately $118,000 be allocated toward 2022-24 teacher professional development, approximately $27,000 toward 2022-24 benchmarking/progress monitoring subscriptions and approximately  $110,000 for technology. 

Should there be extra funding left over, Schmieg said it will be transferred to another line item or used to offset the cost of past COVID-related technology or supplies. 

With the public comment initiative having been closed and the board giving the go ahead on the committee’s proposed ESSER III allocations, Schmieg submitted the grant on Wednesday.  

Up next is a long process of amending it as needed and corresponding re-submissions, Schmieg said. 

“A grant is never set in stone, it can be amended,” Schmieg said, explaining the fluid process. 

To see how other local districts have allocated previous rounds of ESSER funding, visit republictimes.net. 

Also at last week’s meeting, the board approved the district’s 2022-23 school calendar. Students’ first day of attendance will be Aug. 11, 2022, with their last day being May 25, 2023, if all six emergency days (most often snow or ice days) are used.

The technology committee provided an additional update to some concerns expressed at previous meetings. Board secretary and technology committee member Kim Ahne said they hope to have the gym sound system fixed before graduation. 

Superintendent Brian Charron said security cameras for sections outside the high school have been ordered. 

“There’s concern that they may be taking a while, like everything. There are certain electronics that are hard to get, so we may be on back order but it’s ordered,” Charron said. 

Later, the board authorized Charron to amend the 2021-22 fiscal year tentative budget and subsequently display it. Charron said amendments will be made in the coming weeks, and the budget will be up for adoption in April. 

After one parent asked about COVID in schools, Charron said the district currently has little data to report but he estimated less than 10 cases have been reported since the district switched to a mask-optional policy. He also noted, though, that less people have been taking advantage of in-school testing provided by the Regional Office of Education. 

The next Waterloo School Board meeting is March 21 at Gardner Elementary School, 1 Ed Gardner Place, with open session beginning at 7 p.m. 

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