During their meeting Tuesday, the Anderson School District One Board heard a detailed report on how $8.5 million in COVID relief grant funding the District has received has been used. In a related matter, they also approved a 1.5 percent retroactive salary increase for all District One employees for the current school year.
Finance Director Travis Thomas updated the Board on relief grant “stimulus money” the District received as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding was provided through four different Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) funding programs, and according to Thomas, “helped shore up the budget for last year.”
The CARES Academic Recovery Camp (ARC) provided funding of $76,895 in July for the summer reading program.
It included $73,686 for salaries and benefits for teachers and $3,209 for supplies.
The CARES Learning Educaton Assessment and Performance (LEAP) funding received in August allowed the District teachers five additional workdays to get started early on the return to school. The $746,371 was used for salary and fringe benefits for teachers at the elementary and middle schools.
The SC CARES Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant provided $1,249,493 which was used for supplies, IPads and teacher salaries. It included: Cleaning Supplies ($25,351), Desk Shields ($12,109) and Body Temperature Monitors ($60,000) and iPads ($147,000). Just over $1 million of that grant allowed for 14 full time teachers, one at each school, to be hired. Those positions had been cut from the 2020-21 budget due to lack of funding at the time.
The Coronavirus Relief Fund grant provided $1,017,639 for distance learning aids and student devices.
$981,000 for 150 new Chrome books for high schools and 2000 IPads and cases for K-2 students who were using older models and having to share.
The SC CARES ESSER II grant provided $1,310,732 for one year expenditures for FY 2021-22 and $4,126,000 for two year expenditures through FY 2022-23, for a total of $5.4 million. One year expenses covered include $890,000 for a Virtual Learning Academy (VLA), $345,732 for Intervention Services and $75,000 for County Mental Health Counselors.
Funding used for two years of expenses included: $1.1 million for six English and Math teachers at high schools,, $2,041,000 for 14 FTE teachers (one per school), $165,000 for 1.375 FTE District One Mental Health Counselors, $110,000 for a Behavior Specialist and $700,000 for indirect costs.
Responding to a question by Board member Wendy Burgess on how the funding was allocated, Superintendent Robbie Binnicker said they talked with the principals at the individual schools, then elementary, middle and high school principals as a group to see what ”they felt was most important.”
He said the biggest challenge was how to help students who would be behind due to the COVID situation, a situation referred to as the “COVID slide”.
According to Binnicker, a third SC CARES ESSER grant is coming, “but we don’t have the money yet and are not spending it until we get it.”
Binnicker said the Coronavirus Relief grants have been a big help to the District. “They have been a real help financially for the District,” he said, “Not only to help reimburse for supplies and materials we had to purchace and to provide for the Virtual Learning Academy, but to also allow us to try to help prevent the COVID slide. It has been a great financial resource for us.”
During his financial report, Thomas also reported District One received $852,000 in February from the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) collected by Anderson County for November. The County collected a total of $2,648,000 from the one cent sales tax. The LOST fund has a balance of $8.2 million. Twenty percent of the tax goes toward property tax relief with the rest going toward capital improvement projects.
Thomas reported the building program had revenues of $134.5 million, expenses of $97.2 million and currently has a fund balance of $38.3 million. Thomas also gave a preview of the state budget to the board, which will be addressed at a future budget worksession.
Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Jane Harrison reported that end of year state testing will be held for all students which she said is good. “We want to know where our students are,” she said.
She said the district has about ten to eleven percent of students in the Virtual Learning Academy, the rest are face to face learning in classrooms. Harrison said they hope to eventually move the VLA students back to face to face, but there will be some that use it. The VLA application deadline is April 12, she said.
Harrison also reported that a new State Education Department tool allows data to be looked at to determine the slide as a result of COVID. “Anderson District One did not experience the COVID slide like other districts did,” she said.
District One employees will also see a one time check for a 1.5 percent “step increase” that was approved in FY 2019-20. The increase for teachers was approved by state legislators, but was held and frozen over the last year due to COVID. “Nobody in public schools got a raise for this year,” Binnicker said. “Now the legislators say they have the money for these raises and it will be sent to the school districts.”
As a result, any teacher who qualified for a step increase this year will get a raise, with a one time check for the step increase, which will be covered by the state.
At the recommendation of the superintendent, the board also included a 1.5 percent raise for anybody not on a salary scale, including secetaries, office, bus drivers, nurses and administrators.
The board also approved twenty six new teachers who were recommended for positions throughout the District. Director of Personnel Becky Brady thanked the board “for allowing us to hire and recruit so early.”
Dr. Jeff Wilson was introduced as the Assistant Superintendent of Administration and Instruction. Dr. Chris Ferguson as the Director of Secondary Education and Brad Moore as the new Director of Elementary Education. The The three adminstrative positions reflect changes made recently to the District’s organizational chart following an announcement earlier this year that Superintendent of Instruction Jane Harrison will be retiring at the end of the school year. The position of Assistant Superintendent of Personnel was added last year but the District never hired for that position.
The board also heard a building program update.