State error gives Shelton schools more relief funding

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — The school district has more pandemic relief funding coming than first thought thanks to a miscalculation on the part of state education officials.

Superintendent Ken Saranich told the Board of Education late last week that the city will now be receiving slightly more than $2 million as part of the second phase of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grant funds coming from the federal government.

Saranich said he was notified by state Department of Education officials on March 19 that the city would be receiving $188,517 more than originally announced, bringing the total coming to the Shelton school district to $2,004,445.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the spending recommendations at its Wednesday meeting.

Saranich told the Board of Education Finance Committee earlier this month that the district has plans for “every penny” of the $1,815,928 the state said was coming Shelton’s way, with the focus on technology purchases and building air quality improvements.

The additional funds, according to Saranich, would go to cover the second year of costs for a math program — $122,307 — and the purchase of 65 Dell laptops at a cost of $65,390, with the final $820 being used to cover labor costs for prepping the new laptops.

The state funding is designed to allow districts to enhance school safety, prevent learning loss and address the pandemic's mental health impact on students. That includes using it for computers or building projects that would qualify under the federal relief funding restrictions.

In all, Saranich said $447,347 will be used to cover educational costs. The purchases include $40,000 for a summer school intervention program, which will provide remedial services this summer for identified students, and $138,250 for a three-year license to use Lexia software.

The district also plans to purchase Great Minds Eureka Math for grades K-6 for $146,790. Saranich said the program is standardized math curriculum, including assessment materials.

The district plans to spend $1,105,397 of the funds to purchase 800 Chromebooks for $323,200; 435 Chromebook carts for $175,740; and the Dell laptops, which with the additional funds brings the total number purchased at 515 at a cost of $517,955. The three purchases allow the district to remove some $1.1 million from the technology capital plan that would have needed to be covered by the city.

The district also has $450,881 of proposed facilities costs, which would reduce the short- and long-term facilities capital plan, also covered by the city, by $57,000.

The ESSER II grant has restrictions. It can only be used for improving COVID-19 response coordination between school districts and state, county and local public health authorities, addressing learning loss through assessment, tracking student attendance and engagement in distance learning, and evaluating academic progress in comparison to a student's pre-pandemic performance.

It can be used for need-based outreach for students including children in low-income households, those in foster care, those with disabilities and those struggling with homelessness; purchasing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and sanitation supplies and training staff in proper sanitation and personal protection practices; planning and putting in place supplemental instruction like summer camp or aftercare and school facility indoor air quality improvements and repairs.