The three school districts located in Catawba County have been allotted nearly $66 million in COVID-19 relief funds in the past year.
This total includes the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER I, II and III) the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund (GEER I and II) and the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF).
According to data from the districts, Catawba County Schools has been allotted $42,766,600, Hickory Public Schools, $14,329,560 and Newton-Conover City Schools, $8,618,096. The amount each district receives is based on the number of students enrolled in the district.
Each district has submitted plans for how the funds will be used. According to Hickory Public Schools Director of Communications Beverly Snowden the funds aren’t immediately received but school systems are reimbursed after the money has been spent. These numbers are simply estimates of what the districts will receive based on submitted budgets.
The funds are meant to aid with the responses to COVID-19 and to help school systems prepare for the possibility of future issues. This includes updating electronics, subscriptions to online programs for virtual learning, hiring more staff and faculty and buying items for personal safety such as hand sanitizer and masks.
“The vast majority of these funds were not available until the very end of the previous fiscal year, so we are still working through our plans. The funding has been used on a variety of expenditures including sanitation and cleaning supplies and services, personal protective equipment, summer school, instructional software, technology devices, school nutrition services,” Snowden said in an email. “We will be hiring staff to provide extra support to students in the schools both academically and with social and emotional needs. We increased our school nurses. We have hired a district Social Emotional Learning Coordinator to assist in meeting students’ social and emotional needs. We paid for permanent substitutes during the past school year.”
All of the districts are using portions of the funds to address learning loss due to COVID-19. Newton-Conover City Schools plans to combat learning loss with around $840,110 in educational programs and by hiring four new teachers and an instructional coach for the middle school. The district is also spending $12,207 on covers for Chromebooks and $98,000 in digital subscriptions.
Catawba County Schools plans to spend $1 million on hot spots for students, Chromebooks and server upgrades, $513,900 for online resources and $1.35 million for 18 full-time Online Catawba teachers for the 2021-22 school year.