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Livingston Schools to increase device access, enhance STEM learning for students

5 months 1 day 37 minutes ago Friday, May 21 2021 May 21, 2021 May 21, 2021 8:57 AM May 21, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

LIVINGSTON PARISH - After a challenging school year that included a historic hurricane season and the COVID-19 pandemic, education officials in Livingston Parish want to revive local student's educational opportunities.

Using government stimulus funds, education leaders have created a plan that will support accelerated learning recovery, enhance literacy and STEM learning, and develop healthy child development and play. 

Livingston Parish Schools Superintendent Joe Murphy announced the details of the plan, Thursday (May 20).

He explained that Livingston Parish Public Schools plans to give students increased access to devices, will receive approximately $50 million dollars through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to be spent in designated priority areas over the next three years.

A Friday morning news release from the school system said that ESSER funds were awarded to state educational agencies across the nation earlier this year to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continue to have, on elementary and secondary schools.

The Louisiana Department of Education received $1.2 billion, adding to $287 million the state department received in the spring of 2020 through the CARES Act.

LDOE, in turn, established spending priorities and guidelines for distributing those funds to individual school districts and charter schools across the state.

The funding has been divided into ESSER II and ESSER III funds, with the first phase of funding available for investing from March 2020 to September 2023, and the second phase available from March 2021 to September 2024.

“The state has lined out five priorities area, which mirror the state’s critical goals, that will direct our efforts as we work towards achieving our prioritized goals,” Murphy said. “This funding allows us to meet many of the critical needs that were exposed during the most challenging days of the pandemic. At the same time, it will help us strengthen our learning opportunities in this new environment.”

Murphy noted that the five priorities areas, as established by the state, include:

-Ensuring every student is on track to a professional career, college degree or service.

-Providing the highest quality teaching learning environment.

-Cultivating high-impact systems, structures, and partnerships.

-Removing barriers and creating equitable, inclusive learning experiences for all children.

-Developing and retaining a diverse, highly effective educator workforce.

Each of the priority areas include focus areas that determine allowability under the ESSER grant guidelines. For example, under the priority area of providing quality teaching, eligible spending areas include creating a 1:1 device to student ratio, investing in accelerated learning recovery, enhancing literacy and STEM learning, and developing healthy child development and play.

Other focus areas include providing access to high-quality early childhood education, providing mental and behavioral health services, providing greater guidance for family engagement and support, improving ACT scores, dual enrollment opportunities and high-demand apprenticeships for students, and creating teacher-leadership opportunities, greater professional development and improving educator compensation.

“Certainly, the focus areas within these priorities allow much flexibility for our district to specifically tailor our efforts to meet the needs of our students and our employees. The state recognizes there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but every expenditure must be in line with the overall guidelines and goals of the program,” Murphy said.

Murphy noted that funds would not be earmarked for recurring expenses, since they would exhaust by September 2024.

“These dollars cannot be added to our regular recurring expenses, but rather, they are designed to go to efforts that address the needs presented by the COVID pandemic and make improvements to help us better manage our need for more student space, need for more reliable technology and more devices, our need for proven safety procedures and access to health guidance, and greater flexibility and specialties within our teaching corps,” Murphy continued. “With that said, we know the pandemic has required our teachers, administrators and staff to do more, and we also are looking for opportunities to compensate those services through a non-recurring mechanism.”

Murphy said that leadership has been meeting since March with central office department heads, who in turn have reached out to the schools, to review state guidelines and develop a complete plan for effectively investing the grant dollars. He noted that all departments were asked to submit proposals, and each was reviewed with follow-up meetings for clarification and details.

“This has been a thorough effort to identify needs in each department and to develop a plan that addresses those needs,” Murphy said. “While this is a budget, and it is likely to be adjusted throughout the grant timeline period, we feel confident that we have a framework in place to make a positive difference with these funds.”

Click here for more information on Livingston Parish schools. 

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