School Board considers how to spend $1.3 million in relief funds

ELLSWORTH — After scrambling to allocate $1.25 million in COVID Relief Funds granted to the school district and that had to be spent by the year’s end, the question of how to best use an additional $1.3 million in CRF money brought the School Board figuratively to its feet three hours into its Oct. 13 meeting.

CRF grants must only be spent in ways related to COVID-19 and like the first grant, this new one must also be spent by Dec. 30.

While the first CRF monies were spent on preparing implementing safety measures at the schools and setting up remote and hybrid learning systems, Curriculum Coordinator Rachel Kohrman-Ramos focused on teachers for the second financial wave. She and school principals met with nearly all of them last week.

“My biggest takeaway is that teachers are really tired,” Kohrman-Ramos said. “Money can’t buy them sleep … or time with their loved ones.” But it can fund resources for remote learning through more staffing, technology and online resources to lighten the burden for teachers who are working with both in-school and remote students.

But with already unfilled teacher and ed tech positions across the district, Kohrman-Ramos turned to a larger playing field, asking the community “to think creatively” on allocating the funds: “We’re ready to think outside the box.”

But Kohrman-Ramos also had a plan ready to float, drafting “young, energetic college students” to help with virtual learning. She and Ellsworth Middle School Principal Erica Gabbianelli already have meetings set with the University of Maine and College of the Atlantic.

Parents, already a huge learning support for students logging in remotely, also could be drafted in an official capacity, Kohrman-Ramos said. EHS graduates now in college also could be called upon, suggested one board member.

With some student attention flagging when logging in from home, and teachers having to divide their attention between in-person and remote learners, using funds to bolster remote learning will help teachers “meet kids where they are,” she said.

“Every staff member in the building, everyone is working really, really hard,” K-4 Principal April Clifford said, noting her staffing shortage. “It’s important to acknowledge that.”

While the paperwork outlining how the $1.3 million CRF grant will be budgeted and spent is due this week, Superintendent Dan Higgins said there will be an opportunity to later revise the plan, allowing community ideas to come in after the paperwork is submitted.

Kohrman-Ramos can be reached at  664-7100 or [email protected].

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Anne loves tips and story ideas from the public. Email her at [email protected] or call her at 667-2576.

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