County BOE making use of funding sources

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Recent funding sources are allowing the Walker County Board of Education to invest in technology, health and wellness, and literacy.

Walker County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood said the school system received $520,168 through the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund that will be used for implementation of the Alabama Literacy Act, which is aimed at helping students read on target by third grade.

"That is for helping students become more proficient in reading," Hagood said of the act. "This coming school year is the required implementation of it."

GEER funding can only be used by school systems for implementation of the literacy act, Wi-Fi hotspots, or for before and after school tutoring. 

Walker County Schools also received money through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF).

Statewide, Gov. Kay Ivey awarded $170 million in CRF monies to school systems designated for health and wellness and remote learning devices.

The Walker County Board of Education has received $705,000 for health and wellness, which Hagood said will be used for hiring additional nurses to accommodate an increased need for medical assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Non-contact thermometers are also being purchased by the school system, as well as infrared thermal monitoring cameras that can scan the temperatures of multiple students. Hagood said the goal is to purchase two for each school.

The school system was also awarded just over $1 million through the Coronavirus Relief Fund that will be used for additional Wi-Fi hotspots that will assist in virtual learning and blended learning, should traditional school students need to transition to virtual learning options.

The school system has used an estimated $1.4 million in grant funding that was issued earlier this year through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to purchase additional Chromebooks and hotspots that will be placed strategically throughout the county.

All students in Walker County schools will now have access to their own Chromebook for the first time in the school system's history. 

Gov. Kay Ivey announced on Friday that $100 million in CARES Act funding has been allocated to increase Internet access for K-12 students. 

"The program, called Alabama Broadband Connectivity (ABC) for Students, will provide vouchers for families of students currently eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, or other income criteria," a press release from the governor's office states. "The vouchers will help cover equipment and service costs for high-speed internet service from the fall through Dec. 31, 2020. Providers will contract with the state to provide the service using existing lines and technologies."

Money through the CARES Act could be used to provide equipment are service for broadband, satellite, fixed wireless, or DSL Internet service, as well as wireless hot spot availability. 

The families of children who receive free or reduced lunch will receive a letter through the mail in August with details on how to take advantage of the program.

City BOE  investing in wellness, technology 

In a Jasper City Board of Education work session on Thursday, Superintendent Dr. Ann Jackson spoke of how the school system has used recent funding awarded for coronavirus relief.

She said the school system has purchased medical supplies with some of the funding, as well as wifi hotspots for school buses.

The school system is also considering using some of the funding for an after school program to benefit English language learner students and parents. 

"We're still trying to toss around ideas to make sure we're getting the biggest bang for our buck," Jackson said, adding all investments are being made with the safety of students and teachers in mind.

The Daily Mountain Eagle requested to learn how much money the Jasper City Board of Education has received in coronavirus relief funding via email on July 17 and 22, with no response. Jackson referenced the funding amounts were printed in a document at the work session; however, the Daily Mountain Eagle was not provided a copy of the document, nor was the Eagle told of the work session's location, in order to potentially obtain a copy. 

The work session was streamed via Zoom.  

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For more education news from the Daily Mountain Eagle, visit http://www.mountaineagle.com/education.