Substantial funding helps A-A schools get back on track

Friday, August 14, 2020

Since school closures began in the spring, the U.S. government has provided CARES Act funding to K-12 school districts, and last week it was announced that additionally, connectivity funds will be allocated to school districts to provide reliable access to the internet. These measures are designed to help schools nation-wide to get back on their feet for fall.

The Alta-Aurelia school district previously received $77,000 in CARES Act funding which has been used for internet hotspots, and to purchase additional Chromebooks and personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as cleaning equipment and sanitizing products, Superintendent William Walters said. “We have not spent all of it yet.”

It was on May 1st when the Iowa Department of Education announced that the state received more than $71.6 million in federal relief for PK-12 schools to address costs incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $71.6 million is Iowa’s share of the more than $13.2 billion emergency relief provided in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund within the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), according to educateiowa.gov.

CARES Act funds provide critical support for schools as they return to learning in the fall. According to Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo, “Schools can use this funding to address coronavirus-related challenges, including online learning support, professional development, educational technology, mental health services and services to support students with disabilities.”

An additional fund to be allotted to states for schools was announced on August 7th to be used for increased internet connectivity. Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education announced that $26.2 million is now available to districts, nonpublic schools, and colleges and universities primarily to increase internet connectivity for students for the 2020-21 school year.

$19.3 million in awards will go to all 327 school districts and nonpublic schools in Iowa. The remaining $6.9 million will be used for public and private two- and four-year colleges and universities, according to educateiowa.gov.

Gov. Reynolds stated that expanding high-quality broadband access is more important than ever for telelearning, telework and telehealth.

“We will be getting $30,000 from the state,” Walters said. The connectivity funds will be released to school districts following administrative procedures.

Walters feels confident Alta-Aurelia CSD is on top of technology. As in the past, every student has access to a Chromebook, and regarding connectivity, most if not all students have internet access. “In March, we did an inventory on that,” he said. “Two weeks before schools closed, we were upgrading our infrastructure, so we’re ahead of the game.”

Changes are in constant motion. “It’s all a challenge. We just keep building on to what we already have,” Walters said.