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FUESD approves plan to use $9.4 million in COVID-19 funds

Rick Monroe

Special to the Village News

Trustees of the Fallbrook Union Elementary District held a special meeting on Friday morning, Oct. 29, to plan how to use the $9,455,694 allocated by state and federal sources to deal with the impact of COVID-19.

The plan needed to be adopted by the board at a public meeting on or before Oct. 29, and trustees voted unanimously for approval of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III expenditure plan.

School districts, county offices of education, or charter schools, collectively known as local educational agencies, that receive Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds under the American Rescue Plan Act are required to develop a plan for how they will use the funds to, at a minimum, address students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs, as well as the opportunity gaps that existed before, and were exacerbated by, the COVID-19 pandemic.

The expenditure plan, coordinated by Julie Norby, associate superintendent, a 19-page document, was reviewed by the board.

The majority of the funds, $9.1 million, is earmarked for addressing lost instructional time. The remaining $345,283, was budgeted for strategies for continuous and safe in-person learning.

The largest budget item is $6.3 million to maintain lower class size in grades 4-8.

Also budgeted:

• $1,000 for on-site COVID-19 testing

• $223,053 for ongoing increased communication for Spanish-speaking families, including a bilingual clerk

• $1.1 million for targeted intervention support of after-school tutoring opportunities

• $367,174 for instructional technology support including increased requirements for attendance reporting, monitoring independent study contracts, virtual learning and other COVID-19-related reports to local and state agencies, as well as other IT support

• $223,053 for staff recruitment, onboarding and retention

The report noted that ESSER III funds will directly impact its students, families, and the local community. The district meaningfully consulted with its community members in determining the prevention and mitigation strategies, strategies to address the academic impact of lost instructional time, and any other strategies or activities to be implemented by the district.

In developing the plan, the LEA has flexibility to include input received from community members during the development of other plans, such as the Local Control Accountability Plan, recently approved by the district.

FUESD actively engaged stakeholders to give input into the development of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief plan. Site-based meetings and community forums were held with staff, parents and the governing board members, as well as meetings with community partners including the Boys and Girls Club, Palomar Family Counseling, Fallbrook Regional Health District.

There were also community forums held on Jan. 20, Jan. 27, Feb. 3. Classified and certificated union leadership was briefed on Feb. 2, and there was a board workshop on March 5.

School Site Council meetings at each school and staff meetings at each site, all in August and September. The District English Learner Advisory Committee and District Advisory Council also participated on Sept. 27.

A comprehensive input survey was distributed to families, classified staff, certificated staff and administrators at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year using multiple formats at the district and school levels including email, text messaging and social media.

FUESD also offered digital platforms such as the District Needs Assessment Survey (paper offered as well), LCAP goal input via the district website, and FUESD partnered with Panorama Education to provide online surveys. (Spring 2021).

To obtain input on the optimal use of ESSER III funds, a survey was developed and made available to families and staff. The survey was designed to receive input related to four main categories: facilities, technology, student wellness and academic support. Specific options were provided in each section to include current priorities based on previous feedback, as well as a place for an open response in each section. All surveys were reviewed and common themes were extracted and goals and services were drafted to address those continued or new priorities. Additional input was solicited from junior high students via student forums and surveys.

Overall, the input received across stakeholder groups was fairly consistent, the report stated. “All groups were happy and thankful that districts would be receiving additional funding to support our students and meet their identified needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Common themes from all groups included:

• Full time in person learning

• Safe teaching and learning environment

• Maintain lower class sizes

• Onsite testing to allow students who have been identified as close contacts, to stay in school if they are symptom free and test negative for COVID-19

• Expanded learning opportunities (after school tutoring, extended day, summer programs, etc.)

• Instructional materials to support learning gaps

• Increased resources to support the social emotional health needs of our students as a result of COVID-1

• Access to digital devices and internet connectivity

• Professional development for staff on strategies that address students' social emotional health needs and academic needs

“Throughout the past 18 months of the pandemic, all stakeholder feedback was used to evaluate existing programs and services as well as guiding future planning efforts,” the report stated. Stakeholder input has been consistent across groups and consistent since the beginning of the pandemic.

The top priority areas included ensuring that our schools are safe and able to continue in-person instruction, maintaining low class sizes, after school targeted intervention programs for students to address learning loss and specific academic needs, professional development, and continued comprehensive community outreach and communication.


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