As schools across the nation begin to open for the 2020-21 academic year, one thing is certain—things no longer look the same. Some students are starting the year off virtually, while others are attending virtually or in a blended learning environment. The approach varies from state to state and from district to district. All states are working hard to help their schools and students return to learning in the safest ways possible.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont recently announced that the state is making an additional $160 million in funding available for school districts.
“These grants are an essential component to providing the best possible educational opportunities during this uncertain time,” Governor Lamont said in a press release. “Through this program, we are going to be able to offer devices, platforms, and internet connectivity to help with distance learning in lower-income areas for students just beginning their education through college and graduate school, increase access to higher education by expanding scholarship opportunities, and help those seeking vocational training to launch a new career. This global pandemic has changed the education paradigm, and we are fortunate we have this funding to help our state and schools adapt.”
The additional funds are slated to help Connecticut schools safely reopen, assist them with costs associated with responding to COVID-19, and support local operations for the school year.
The new Coronavirus Relief Funds will complement the $15 million already committed from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund and $111 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, bringing the total funding for Connecticut schools to $266 million—one of the largest preK-12 state funding plans per student in the country, the governor’s office stated.
The Connecticut State Department of Education is developing an application process for school districts. It will include specific questions to determine areas of greatest need specific to districts’ strategies for the effective delivery of in-person, hybrid, and/or remote learning opportunities.
Some of the needs that the department will consider for the funds include:
- Personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.
- Bus monitors to assist students and ensure social distancing, as well as funding for additional routes in high-density areas.
- Laptops and at-home internet connections.
- Additional staff to support new models of remote learning and socially distant classrooms.
- Support staff and services for students with special learning and language needs.
The needs for the funds were formulated from district surveys about the costs they anticipate incurring beyond what they have budgeted for SY 2020-21 in various categories, including academic and student supports, staffing, health and safety, technology, and transportation.
The Lamont administration also recently announced its launch of the Everybody Learns initiative: a $43.5 million investment in remote learning solutions to close the digital divide in Connecticut by purchasing 50,000 laptops for students, providing 12 months of access to at-home internet for 60,000 students, creating public hotspots free to the public at 200 community sites across the state, and offering social-emotional learning content to school districts statewide.
The funding is a combination of the state’s portion of the federal CARES Act, GEER funds and ESSER funds, and will be supported in part by an initiative of Dalio Education and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities to ensure students across the state have access to computers and internet connectivity, the governor’s office stated.
Krista Birkeland covers grants and career and technical education for TitleIAdmin, a DA sister publication.