SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady City School District submitted its plan for how to spend its $41.3 million, four-year earmark in coronavirus relief funding to the U.S. Department of Education, after the district was granted a one-month extension to facilitate the arrival of new superintendent Anibal Soler Jr.
Schenectady’s share of the nearly $122 billion American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund — to continue to safely reopen schools, sustain their safe operations, and support students, especially those most impacted by the pandemic — was driven by the voices of building principals, assistant principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, and building leadership teams, according to Soler, who’s tenure began in July.
The district’s plan is focused on non-recurring expenses such as extending the school year, improving heating, ventilation and air conditioning in schools, and kitchens to provide students with better nutrition. It also includes the purchase of books that reflect the students’ diverse ethnic backgrounds, Soler said on Thursday.
“For us, it’s exciting to have some dollars to do some creative things that we’ve always wanted to do,” he said.
He said his administration spent the last two months filtering and synthesizing the material to make it more universal.
The bulk of the money, $24.1 million, is dedicated to “purchased services.”
Noting that district staff is “stretched thin,” the expansive plan will use $4 million to partner with community-based organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club, the county library, YMCA and Schenectady Inner City Ministry to enhance summer, after-school and other extended learning and enrichment programs.
The plan calls to create what Soler described as “cool, creative” outdoor classroom space in Mont Pleasant Middle School’s courtyard, while calling for additional personnel at the high school to deal with “a lot of trauma that we haven’t really been able to gauge yet.”
At times there have been conflicts related to the students getting reacclimated to being together again during in-person learning, Soler said.
The plan will use an estimated $12.4 million for summer enrichment programming from 2022 to 2024. This spending includes the addition of seven special education teachers, eight English Language Learning teachers, and $2.2 million for transportation for programs.
More than $2.4 million will be used to:
- Maximize in-person instruction with writing and math manipulatives
- Sensory materials
- Scientific and graphing calculators
- Additional teacher aides
- Additional full-time equivalent positions to reduce class sizes
Some classes presently have about 30 students, which is too large, Soler said.
About $10.2 million is for:
- Improving playgrounds
- Repairing walkways and outdoor spaces
- Repairing and upgrading classrooms and learning areas
- Improving HVAC systems
- Replacing Mont Pleasant’s athletic field and track
- Other upgrades to facilities
More than $1.2 million will be for the purchase of educational technology, such as:
- STEM classroom kits
- Chromebooks and chargers
- Virtual reality goggles
- Information technology assistants
- Additional contracted technical support
Soler thanked the district’s assistant business official, Taryn Breen, and Nancy Morrison, a grant writer from the Capital Region BOCES who took input from the district’s 17 buildings.
Reporter Brian Lee can be reached at 518-419-9766 or [email protected]