The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, is a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill that was signed into law on March 27.
Congress earmarked $3 billion of the $30.75 billion allocated to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF).
Tallassee City Schools received $114,000 in GEERF funding. According to Tallassee City School superintendent Dr. Brock Nolin, those funds are aimed to close the achievement gap and will pay for things like tutoring and implementing the literacy act the legislature passed last year.
Gov. Kay Ivey allocated a portion of those federal funds for Alabama schools to assist with things such as remote learning and wellness.
TCS received $299,000 from the CARES Act fund for remote learning.
"We used that to complete our iPad purchases," Nolin said. "We used those funds for hotspots. Those were purchased prior to the ABC Act, which was rolled out to provide internet access for low-income families."
Under the ABC Act, qualifying families receive vouchers for free internet service.
"I do encourage those families to send those codes in to our providers so they can have at least the equipment set up,” Nolin said. “It's my understanding that those funds are only available through December so parents should act fast to access those funds."
TCS implemented the one to one (1:1) iPad initiative for students in middle and high school, but due to COVID-19 restrictions in place, that initiative was expanded to reach elementary school students as well.
"We consciously battled the dynamic of ‘when do we move the one to one initiative to the elementary school?” Nolin said. “Though I wouldn't choose this situation to encourage us to do that, this has compelled us to push that along."
Officials will distribute iPads to students at the elementary school according to grade levels.
Most students will know how to use the devices, but students may need guidance when logging into the digital learning platforms.
"Most children can use the device,” Nolin said. “The caveat to that is they have the learning modality. They have to understand how to log into their online textbooks. They need to know how to log into their online curriculum. So, there is a learning curve.”
A portion of CARES Act funding TCS received also went to wellness. The school system received $209,000 in funds aimed at creating a safe environment for students, faculty and staff.
"We bought foggers for the classrooms, sprayers for the buses, all the protective gear we needed, shields for teachers," Nolin said. "We outfitted the entire elementary school with shields for their desks to help encourage social distancing. We provided extra hours for our nurses to help to prepare for students' return."
Collectively, TCS received $622,000 in ACRES Act funding.
"All of those funds haven't been expended,” Nolin said. “We are looking at trying to add another (licensed nurse practitioner) to get on board with us this year to help with some of the contract tracings. We see that as a need, so if any local LPNs are willing to help out, we will gladly consider you for that position."
With CARES Act funding remaining, TCS is equipped to protect students, faculty and staff during the 2020-21 school year.