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The Vigo County School Corp. will receive an estimated $30.5 million as part of the third round of federal stimulus dollars [American Rescue Plan], according to the Indiana Department of Education.

Indiana's total allocation is nearly $1.8 billion.

Planning allocations for Indiana’s non-public schools, which together total an additional $78 million, will be released later this spring.

"We had been hearing that it would be even larger than the last round," said Bill Riley, VCSC director of communications. VCSC has been allocated $13.5 million as part of Round 2 of federal COVID relief funding; funds are provided on a reimbursement basis.

"I think there will be quite a bit of strategic discussion between the administration and the school board over the coming months ... This certainly is an amount of money that could be transformational," Riley said. First, the district needs to better understand how funds can be used.

The district already has a tutoring program underway to address COVID-related learning loss, and it will seek program reimbursement through the second round of stimulus funding.

"Our after-school tutoring program is going really well," Riley said, with more than 1,400 K-12 students participating. Each school has a program, and teachers as well as educational assistants are being paid to provide the tutoring.

All students receive a snack, and about 500 of the students are using VCSC bus transportation after the tutoring program ends each day.

The uses for Round 3 will be similar to those for Round 2 of stimulus funding, Riley said. With Round 3, 20% must be used to address learning loss.

Among the uses for Round 3, according to the DOE website, is "sustainable innovation" involving such areas as social-emotional learning and virtual learning. "I imagine that will be part of the discussion we have with the board in terms of how to use this money to address those items," Riley said.

Funds also can be used for "improving indoor air quality" and "repairing and improving school facilities to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards."

Potentially, funds could be incorporated to address those needs in high school facilities, Riley said, but needs exist at other schools as well. "Across the district we have HVAC [heating, ventilation, air-conditioning] needs that can be addressed with this money as well as looking at classroom spaces and things like that."

The district will look at the COVID-relief money from a corporation perspective, Riley said. "How that plays into a potential high school project is unknown at this point."

Round 3 of COVID relief funding can also be used for technology.

Prior rounds have enabled the district to purchase Chromebooks for students, "and we have kindergarten and first-grade Chromebooks on order, as well as some backups. We were able to complete a 1:1 technology rollout in under a year thanks to federal stimulus money," Riley said.

The latest announcement about additional COVID relief funding "is absolutely good news, but now the hard work begins of how to use this strategically and to position ourselves well for the future," Riley said. "Of course, we'll be working with the state, our legal team, and listening to how other school districts are using this money to understand the appropriate use of it."

Katie Jenner, Indiana Secretary of Education, said the federal funding is allowing many Indiana schools "access to unprecedented resources to sustainably invest in their future. While the needs may vary from one school to the next, it’s critical that schools are strategically planning to maximize their return on investment, in turn achieving the greatest outcomes for students.”

With this funding, schools can reimburse approved expenses incurred through September 2024 that address some of the greatest challenges schools continue to face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Per federal requirements, schools must use at least 20 percent of these funds to support accelerated learning opportunities for students, as schools work to make up for lost instructional time due to COVID-19. These evidence-based interventions may include summer learning or enrichment, comprehensive afterschool programs, extended school years programs, etc.

Other allowable uses include:

• Training and professional development on sanitizing and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases;

• Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean facilities;

• Repairing and improving school facilities to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards;

• Improving indoor air quality;

• Addressing the needs of children from low-income families, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth;

• Developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of school districts;

• Planning for or implementing activities during long-term closures, including providing meals to eligible students and providing technology for online learning;

• Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, connectivity, assistive technology, and adaptive equipment) for students that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including students from low-income families and children with disabilities;

• Providing mental health services and supports, including through the implementation of evidence-based full-service community schools and the hiring of counselors;

• Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs;

• Addressing learning loss; and

• Other activities that are necessary to maintain operation of and continuity of and services, including continuing to employ existing or hiring new LEA and school staff.

Other Wabash Valley districts

Other local school districts and their estimated allocation from the American Rescue Plan is as follows:

• Clay Community Schools — $7.6 million.

• Southwest Parke Com School Corp. — $1.5 million.

• North Central Parke Community School Corp. — $3.1 million.

• Northeast School Corp — $1.6 million.

• Southwest School Corporation — $1.9 million.

• South Vermillion Community School Corp. — $2.7 million.

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional reporting at 6:30 p.m. 

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