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Sarasota Monday, Mar. 29, 2021 3 weeks ago

School district to receive $30 million in relief funds

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The district will have until 2023 to spend all the funds.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

As municipalities across the country prepare to receive additional federal relief funds, so too is the Sarasota County School District. 

The district is poised to receive about $30 million in the most recent round of federal coronavirus relief funding. The district will have until 2023 to spend it. 

In the first round, the district received $5.1 million, which was largely spent on paying teachers for five extra duty days to receive additional training at the beginning of the year.

Chief Financial Officer Mitsi Corcoran said the new $30 million will have to be split with the county’s charter schools. Roughly $5 million will be directed to the district’s 13 charters, leaving $25 million for remaining district expenses. 

In February, district officials anticipated $20 million in relief funds and budgeted the anticipated revenue to help offset the costs of curriculum adoptions, food service costs and other COVID-19 expenses. 

This year, the district will have to adopt English language materials at an estimated cost of $5.7 million to keep up with changing Florida standards. It also will have to pay off food services costs, which have taken a hit due to COVID-19

The district this year kept the same number of food staff even though there were fewer students enrolled. The lower enrollment meant fewer meals were being purchased and less food revenue. 

About $1.6 million will be transferred from the general fund budget to the Food and Nutrition Services Fund to help cover the cost. 

The federal funds allocated came in $10 million over what the district budget, which Corcoran said will help the district more easily pay off other COVID-19 expenditures. 

Corcoran said funds could be used toward unemployment payments, personal protective equipment and upgraded air filtration systems at the schools. Some school board members suggested using the funds to hire additional staff, but Corcocan said she was hesitant to hire staff with one-time grant funds. 

However, she said she’d be happy to see the funds used toward helping children, whether it’s through extra teacher duty days or adding additional contracted services. 

Corcan said at least 20% of the funds will be used toward academic interventions, such as an expanded summer school program. The district estimates the summer school will cost $4 million each year for two years, bringing the total cost to $8 million. 

“We want to use those funds for intervention, summer school and all those things we can do to help get our kids back to where they need to be,” Corcoran said. 

Additional funds will be spent covering the cost of federally mandated COVID-19 leave and extra duty time for teacher planning days or to reimburse teachers who are doing remediation with students during planning periods or on the weekends.

 It also will be used for personal protective equipment, though Corcoran said those costs are significantly lower than last year. 

Rather than purchasing plastic shields for each desk and advanced air filtration systems, the district will need focus on purchasing air filters, face coverings and cleaning supplies for the upcoming school year. 

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