Local school districts will be getting millions of dollars in federal money over the next couple of years as part of the American Rescue Plan bill passed by Congress and signed by President Joseph Biden.
This is the third round of federal money for schools since the pandemic began last year.
Since federal dollars are tied to the number of low-income students in a district, Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 will reap the biggest federal bonanza. District 103 is projected to get just over $4.4 million is the latest round of federal support.
All told, District 103 will receive just over $6.9 million in federal money through the three federal stimulus bills. This money is supposed to be used to combat learning loss during the pandemic and fund other pandemic related expenses. The district’s annual operating budget is about $38.5 million.
“We’re definitely excited to have this additional support, and we will make very good use of it,” said District 103 Superintendent Kristopher Rivera.
Rivera said the district spent much of the first round of just over $500,000 in federal money for Chromebooks to help with remote learning as well as personal protective equipment and temperature check machines and thermometers. Alone among area school districts, District 103 has not had any in-person school yet this year.
While concrete plans have not yet been decided upon, Rivera said a good chunk of the new money could go to HVAC upgrades in the district. He said some would probably be spent on additional learning time, but that must be negotiated with the teachers’ union. Rivera said that the district must be careful about spending money on additional staff because that is a recurring expense.
“With one-time monies it’s an effort to try to use them on one-time expenses, not things that are going to be recurring year after year,” Rivera said. “I try not to put in concepts that are not sustainable, because we have plenty of one-time needs with our facilities. We could spend that $6 million on HVAC alone, easily.”
Riverside-Brookfield High School is projected to get $1,022,089 in the latest round of federal stimulus and about $1.6 million overall.
“We’ll have to meet with the financial advisory council as we do budget planning, but it’s definitely something that will help will help with projected deficits,” District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said.
Lyons Township High School is projected to receive a little over $1.6 million in the latest round and about $2.6 million overall. Some of that money could be spent to increase air conditioning at LTHS and other HVAC improvements as well as pay for pandemic-related expenses.
“Anything during this pandemic is appreciated trying to help us offset some of the additional costs,” said District 204 Superintendent Tim Kilrea.
Riverside Elementary School District 96 is projected to be eligible for $1,332,145 from the latest stimulus package and should get a little more than $2 million overall.
Since District 96 is already in a pretty strong financial position, Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye is looking to use the federal money to combat learning loss and the achievement gap.
“We feel that we’ve got our basic needs pretty well met and we are going to definitely look at how are we spending this on supporting this on students and students in need,” Ryan-Toye said. “We wonder about additional intervention and support in the academic areas, we wonder about additional intervention and support in the social-emotional learning areas. Certainly, supporting our teachers also potentially through coaching and other professional learning as we look at what needs are now prioritized because of the pandemic.”
Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 is projected to receive a little over $1.1 million in the latest round and nearly $1.8 million overall. Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski said the district is looking to use some of that money to hire two new math interventionists and an additional behavioral interventionist.
But since the money will be funneled through the state, Kuzniewski is worried that the Illinois General Assembly will use the federal money as an excuse to reduce state aid to schools.
“Haven’t we seen this movie before where we get this money from the federal government and the state cuts back on other funding?” Kuzniewski said. “Everyone in the community will be thinking we have a million dollars, and the net gain more likely than not will not be a million dollars.”
LaGrange-Brookfield School District 102, which serves the southwest portion of Brookfield, is expected to receive nearly $1.5 million in the third wave of funding and $2,348,785 overall. Komarek School District 94, the smallest area district, is projected to get $515,021 in the latest round and $807,233 overall.