By HEATHER RUPPE
A new fifth-grade campus will be constructed for students at Colleton County Middle School as part of the school district’s plan to use millions in federal relief funds.
The Colleton County School District has received nearly $23 million in federal relief funds from the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law on March 11. The national plan handed over $121.9 billion to the U.S. Department of Education, with the intent of that money to provide relief to school districts across the nation who were battling with the impact from COVID-19.
Of the $121.9 billion in national dollars, the South Carolina Department of Education received about $2.1 million in these relief funds, which are dubbed ESSER Funds (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds). The Colleton County School District has received $22,751,793 in federal relief funding from the state’s pot of cash.
Broken down, the Colleton County School Board is spending the near $23 million in a specific budget that puts large sums of money into four big buckets.
One of the biggest projects coming from the local district’s relief fund expenditure plan is expanding and remodeling Colleton County Middle School. This project has a total cost of nearly $6.9 million.
The district’s plan is to create a sixth-grade center, or academy, on the school’s current campus.
This new sixth-grade campus will reduce class size and “meet the developmental needs of the fifth-grade students transitioning to the middle school environment,” said Sean Gruber, spokesman for the Colleton County School District.
“The middle school expansion is a redesign, in order to meet the needs of all of our middle school students,” said Gruber.
There is no current timeline on this project. The Colleton County School Board has also not decided on any layout or plan for this project. Gruber said this was new sixth-grade center was a “want” of the school board, but the new rescue funds made the plan a more immediate possibility.
Other ways that the Colleton County School Board is a portion of the relief funds are spending $4.6 million for learning and academic recovery. This part of the local plan is required as part of federal relief fund plan, as related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Colleton’s plan for learning and academic recovery includes strengthening core instruction in English, Math and social and emotional health for students. This money will also be used in expanding classroom libraries ($254,625); transportation upgrades ($658,375,00.00) and a Twilight/Graduation/Middle School project ($80,000).
The district is also spending $1.1 million to install a new roof at the district’s office and onto Colleton County High School and the Thunderbolt Career and Technology Center.
The transportation upgrades include spending $148,000 on new bus cameras. All school district buses will have cameras on each bus.
Additionally, the district is spending $395,000 on new HVAC units for Northside Elementary and for Hendersonville Elementary.
Also, district leaders are spending $25,000 of the federal relief funds on a data closet for Black Street Early Childhood Center. According to Gruber, this data closet is a room where electrical wiring and computer hardware is installed.
Other relief fund expenses
The school board is spending $60,000 in teacher bonuses and is also spending more than $3.2 million in “retaining teaching position salaries.”
According to Gruber, the $3.2 million in funding was used to save 31 existing district positions by balancing the school district’s current budget.
The school board has also allocated $2,500 sign-on bonuses for all secondary level teachers and special education teachers in the district.
As part of the federal relief aid requirements, the Colleton County School District has a plan for how to deal with COVID-19 positive cases. Creating this plan was a part of the district’s receiving the federal relief money. This plan includes a school nurse notifying DHEC if there is a COVID-19 positive case and isolating a person on a school campus, should they begin feeling symptoms of the respiratory virus while they are at school.
Here’s what you should know about Colleton’s expenditure plan:
Colleton’s public schools have received $22,751,793 in federal relief funds.
From this money, 20 percent ($4.6 million) must be used for learning.
$500,000 is being spent to sanitize and clean facilities.
$8.6 million is being used for school facility repairs and improvements.
$9.1 million will be used to “maintain operation” and continue services.
Colleton leaders have decided to use some of the money for infrastructure needs, including a new roof on the district headquarters.
Two elementary schools are getting new HVAC systems.
$6.9 million will be spent to expand Colleton County Middle School.
Some of the money ($60,000) will be used for sign-on bonuses for new teachers.
Bus cameras are being bought and installed.
More teacher training is being paid for and provided.