by: Summer Kelley
As part of the COVID-19 Relief Bills, the CARES Act is providing much needed relief to school districts throughout the state of Georgia. The state as a whole was awarded $411 million in Federal relief funds for COVID-19 related issues for K-12 education. On Monday, the state board of education voted to give 90% of those funds to local districts.
Superintendent Dr. Jan Harris said the grant funds were awarded based on poverty information for the school system. For Dade County, this means $360,094 that can be used for distance learning, school nutrition, facilities or equipment, mental and physical health, continuity of staff and services, supplemental learning, or at-risk student learning.
"Right now we have not made a determination to purchase anything with the money," Harris said.
Despite the allocation of unexpected funds, school systems in Georgia are in fact bracing for cutbacks. Harris said a recent meeting of Superintendents and board members through the Georgia School Board Association (GSBA), had the GSBA warning systems to prepare for funding cuts of as much as 14% for the 2020-2021 school year. Harris said for Dade County that would mean a loss of $2 million in funding, so the relief funds are especially welcome, even for a school system in as good a financial shape as Dade County. Harris said the county has 18% of their budget saved in reserve for emergency situations.
"We in Dade County are in a better place than most....We have enough money, I think, to weather the storm for this next year," Harris said. "We will be tightening our belts and doing everything to not compromise the quality of education we are giving our children."
Dade County schools have additionally applied for another grant which funds would be used to put wi-fi in all the system's buses. Buses could then be parked during the day in areas of the county where access to internet was limited.
More information on what school systems can expect for the coming year will be available in June or July, Harris said, with the state legislature potentially reconvening around mid-June.
In the meantime, Harris said they are "very thankful for that money and will carefully guard that money and use it for the benefit of our students as always."