St. J School To Involve Community In Multi-Million Dollar COVID Aid Spending Plan

St. Johnsbury School #filephoto

The St. Johnsbury School District has been awarded $7,491,413 in federal money from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) passed into law in March.

The next step is for the school to decide how to spend that money but Superintendent Dr. Brian G. Ricca that it will be more of a community decision.

“We’ll build a thoughtful and careful process that involves the community and all of our stakeholders, as well as faculty, staff, board members, parents, etc.,” said Ricca on Friday.

The ARP money process is expected to take place over the next year and will likely be modeled on the way the school is currently deciding how to spend a prior chunk of federal COVID relief aid known as “ESSER II” (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief).

The school was awarded $3,336,860 in ESSER II money and is getting ready to submit its plan for spending it to the state for approval.

“We used a community process for ESSER II,” said Ricca. “Once our plan is accepted by the Agency of Education we can submit it and we will be reviewing that process for community engagement…”

If the review shows that the ESSER II process worked well, the school will use it as a model to decide the distribution of the ARP funding. If the review indicates the ESSER II process didn’t work as well as expected, adjustments will be made.

“We want to make sure that folks have a voice in how we spend some of this money for our school because it’s a community resource,” said Ricca.

Ricca also said that, so far, the working groups have been prioritizing academics, social-emotional learning and family/student engagement in their recommendations

The school also received $849,696 in ESSER I money from the federal government at the start of the pandemic.

That money is already being used.

The Town of St. Johnsbury is taking a similar approach to deciding how to spend the $2,139,413.68 in ARP money it is receiving. The town is also forming an ad-hoc committee that is expected to be formalized by the select board at its regular meeting on Monday.

Vermont is expected to receive more than $1.25 billion dollars in pandemic-related ARP funding.

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