Pandemic relief package approved for local schools

Pandemic relief package approved for local schools

NORTH PROVIDENCE – A second round of COVID-19 relief funds has been approved for North Providence schools.

The funds will help pay for unforeseen expenses resulting from the pandemic, according to school officials who applied for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief II money.

Congress set aside the funds in March to help school districts safely reopen and to address the impact of the pandemic on students.

Supt. Joseph Goho said he’s “excited about the many ways that we plan to use the ESSER II money,” with priorities including technology, furniture and various improvements to school buildings.

Another top priority is to address North Providence students’ social and emotional needs, as well as assessing and addressing learning loss.

District administrators have already solicited input from school principals and surveyed families about their needs, Goho said.

The ESSER II application, which was officially approved by the Rhode Island Department of Education, includes the purchase of new, high-quality curriculum materials in-line with recent state mandates. North Providence applied for a total of $2,799,819.

By doing so, Goho said the district was able to relieve its operating budget and roll out a new English language arts, math and science programs this year.

Goho said the district’s application for its last round of funding (the ESSER III) focuses on school buildings.

The three older elementary schools, Centredale, Greystone and Whelan, will be targeted for a large portion of that work, as well as “any building that may have a legitimate, significant issue that we feel needs to be addressed with this one-time infusion of cash from the federal government.”

“We want to make sure that we use it in the best interest of our students, for their education, but also to provide relief for our taxpayers. If we have any major improvements that we can use the federal money for, we do not have to ask the municipality for that,” he continued.

Administrators are currently working on the details of the ESSER III application, which Goho said would be shared publicly with the community.

Goho said the ESSER III is the final batch of federal COVID relief funds that the district expects at this time.

The overarching goal, he said, is to provide “the highest-quality education for all students in the most fiscally responsible way for the taxpayers.”

“We want to make sure we are using these funds efficiently, but also delivering the appropriate services to our classrooms,” he said.

Back in April, the school department was projecting a fiscal 2021 deficit of about $280,000 in unanticipated COVID expenses. Now, Goho said the department will be seeking reimbursement on those funds.