FCPS strikes ahead with $189M COVID-19 grant, as particular schooling issues persist
The Fairfax County School Board yesterday (Thursday) approved a framework to apply for federal Covid-19 funds, with the understanding that it would have better oversight and more information on how the money is being spent.
The roughly $ 189 million plan is set to begin next school year and extend through June 2024. His mission is to help Fairfax County Public Schools respond to issues related to the pandemic.
“Although we had a public hearing about where people should use our funds, we did not get any more details from the superintendent and his team,” said Megan McLaughlin, district representative for Braddock.
The school board thanked district administrators for developing the ESSER framework after learning of the incoming funds in May, but several board officials questioned whether the proposal was sufficiently detailed and accountable .
“The ESSER funds are different from other federal government funds in that they require substantial community contributions and reach,” said Karen Corbett-Sanders, Mount Vernon District Representative.
The ESSER III money will support school operations, cover the increased workload for the Individualized Education Program (IEP) staff, support academic interventions that address student social and emotional needs, help with student translation services, and much more.
The largest costs identified so far by the district’s staff would include:
- $ 54.9 million for academic interventions
- $ 46.2 million in special education contracts
- $ 23.3 million for social and emotional learning needs
- Almost $ 20.2 million for learning in the summer of 2022
- Almost $ 14 million in extra-curricular programming and transportation
According to an FCPS presentation on the program, the ESSER funds are intended to address the effects of the pandemic, especially for the disproportionately affected students, and at least 20% must be used for learning losses, among other things.
The money will come through the Virginia Department of Education from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed by Congress and signed in March.
Corbett-Sanders said FCPS had an August 1 deadline to provide a general framework to the state before submitting a more detailed plan for using the funds by September 1.
“Instead of just giving the green light: ‘You’re giving us $ 188.6 million, we’ll put it on a position list’, we felt it was important to have a little more comprehensive planning around the ESSER fund grant.” Corbett -Sanders said.
With the board’s initial approval, Superintendent Scott Brabrand will present an official ESSER III plan ahead of the board’s business meeting on August 26th. In a working session in September, he will present more detailed information, including targets, operational timelines and accountability.
The board’s motion also required government-filed changes to the plan that reach $ 100,000 or more to be approved by the board.
Of particular concern to FCPS right now is the proposed $ 46 million in special education costs that would pay existing staff an additional 30 minutes per day, a 7% increase in salaries, according to the district.
Superintendent Scott Brabrand said during a working session on Tuesday (July 13) that the extra time was due to increased paperwork for individual education programs due to the pandemic.
The promise of additional funding comes amid a reported shortage of special educators that led the FCPS to maintain a summer learning program for students with disabilities last month.
Parent Kirstin Apker said at yesterday’s board meeting that FCPS had given families less than five days notice that the program would be delayed for the extended school year. Conflicting communications from the district about transportation prompted Apker to take their son to school only to find out he had to wait for a newly created second session beginning later this month.
“I understand that FCPS has limited control over teacher burnout and staff shortages, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of transparency and early communication,” she told the school board.
Apker noted that although her family appreciated the staff and quality of special education services, as well as past communications from FCPS, they received 10-minute online sessions with his special education teacher every day during the pandemic.
School officials this month suggested that staffing issues were resolved with the extended school year, but Fairfax County’s Parents-Teachers Association Vice President Amanda Campbell said families and staff remain concerned about staffing levels for this fall.
She told the school board that SEPTA has also heard from staff and families who say the students’ IEP plans are not being implemented.
“We are renewing our application for an FCPS-led town hall to address ESY questions and concerns from special education families and staff,” said Campbell. “The problems ESY is facing this year are likely to continue into future summers as the effects of the pandemic become more apparent.”