West Virginia Department of Education Officials Discuss New Directions for COVID-19 Fund | VM News

CHARLESTON – During the June meeting of the West Virginia Board of Education, members discussed the third round of federal funding available to West Virginia K-12 schools as part of the US bailout.

“Our primary goals are to safely reopen schools for in-person instruction and keep them open, and the second is to address the disruption to teaching and learning resulting from the pandemic,” said Melanie Purkey, executive director of the West Virginia Department of Education. Federal Programs Office. “We need to keep these two major goals in mind when we think about how we will spend this money, and districts need to keep that in mind when deciding how to spend this money.”

In his presentation, Purkey spoke to board members about the application and use of funds, as well as the directions and restrictions on funds at the state and county levels.

West Virginia received more than $ 761 million in the third round of federal funding. With the first and second rounds of funding, the total is approximately $ 1.2 billion for the state education system.

Of the $ 761 million for the third round, Purkey said about $ 739 million will go to school systems, which have spending limits and guidelines they must follow for spending those funds.

“All funds must be spent on projects that prevent, prepare for or respond to COVID-19,” she said. “While it says you can make improvements to buildings, those improvements need to be related to COVID-19 prevention, preparedness or response. “

School systems will need to spend at least $ 175 million for lost learning, $ 7.8 million for summer programs and $ 7.8 million for after-school programs, leaving $ 548 million remaining as counties may assign permitted uses, according to Purkey.

The counties received 25% of their funding because the state only received a percentage of the funding up front to ensure that the counties had the funds to employ staff and start the school year, she declared.

To meet federal requirements for the use of funds, Purkey noted that the state Department of Education has a process in place for counties that will result in a request with a detailed budget and submission to the ministry.

“All 55 counties are due by the end of July,” she said. “They will come to us, show us the diagram of all the parts that they are required to have submitted. We will get a digital copy and we will have the opportunity to have a dialogue.

“In the past, they would submit a written request and we would respond in writing if there were things that needed clarification or that were missing. This allows us to send them back to their county department knowing what parts they are missing and have a clear picture of what needs to be done before submission on August 1.

Purkey said that by making the presentations, the ministry wants to ensure that projects fall within federal guidelines for the use of funds and that counties meet minimum spending amounts for summer programs and beyond. school.

“As they work on the projects over the three years, we are responsible for tracking their actual spending,” she said. “At the end of the three years, if they haven’t met the minimum spending amounts for these programs, they’ll have to pay back all the money they spent on a project that didn’t cover the summer programs,” extracurricular activities and lost learning. “

Amy Willard, head of school operations for the Department of Education, said that before the federal government guidelines were released detailing what the funds could be used for, the state had received a broad interpretation of the rules.

“Once we got these guidelines that said they were to be used to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID, some of the construction projects that we initially thought were allowed could not be linked to COVID, like a new roof for example, “she said.” We sent out information to counties to give them a list of things that would still be allowed with the funds and let them know that other projects would have to come off the table and no longer be approved. “

Willard said projects that would be approved under the guidelines include HVAC upgrades and repairs; replacement of windows and doors; renovations to make the existing non-classroom space usable as a classroom; construction of outdoor classroom spaces; purchase of modular classroom space; renovations to install hands-free water faucets, doors and toilets; and any type of renovation to make cleaning more effective and efficient, such as replacing carpet with tiles.

Some ineligible projects would include roof replacement, secure school entrances and asbestos reduction, unless they are associated with an eligible project, Willard added.

“Federal guidelines also made it clear that all construction projects require prior written approval from the state agency, so we had to develop an addendum,” she said. “For each project that the counties wish to carry out, that is to say a construction linked to their ESERF funding, they will have to complete this separate application and provide us with additional information about their project, the sources of funding involved, the completion and the estimated cost, the project description, and they’re going to tell us how it’s going to explicitly prevent, prepare for, or respond to COVID. “

Additionally, Willard said there is a list of federal requirements that must also be met for review, including an environmental impact assessment and whether the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places or is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. ‘be and what impact the project would have.

While recording and following up, with large sums of money like this, Purkey said WVDE would be held accountable for what was done and the impact.

“We will be working with our office of data collection and research to determine how we could use existing data collections to examine the impact and report what the federal government wants,” she said. “We will also need to design new collection tools so that we can flag any items the US Department of Education wants throughout the three years of this funding.”

According to Purkey, the state’s plan and revisions to the return roadmap were submitted to the federal government last Monday and will be available for public comment around June 20.

Counties will also be required to receive feedback from stakeholders for their plan requests, as well as submit requests for public comment.

Editor-in-Chief Kailee Kroll can be reached at (304) 626-1439, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @kaileekroll.

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