Lafayette County Schools seek third round of pandemic stimulus funds

Published 2:40 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2021

As Mississippi officials continue to debate how to spend the pandemic stimulus funds, at least one local school district is waiting for approval on its third round of funding.

Mississippi is receiving over $6 billion dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act, with only $1.8 billion in control of the state legislature and $932 million allocated to state and local governments and agencies, but where other states have planned their spending, Mississippi is lagging behind.

Planning on how to spend the federal funds has to be completed by Dec. 31, 2024, and the funds have to be spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

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Gov. Tate Reeves has stayed relatively quiet on the latest ARPA installment with the public. Previously, Reeves was vocal about creating a “Restart Mississippi” initiative, most members were business leaders and top donors of his campaign, but the plan fell through when the state Legislature retained control of the funds.

While the state officials have not publicly stated any plans, the Lafayette County School District is currently waiting for approval on their third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, which was included in the ARP Act as a means to safely reopen school and sustain them while addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We hope to hear back in the next month,” said Suzanne Ryals, vice superintendent of Lafayette County Schools. “We feel good about our application. [The MDE] has given us a lot of technical assistance to understand what’s allowable.”

The district was allocated $3,337,250 but a 20% learning loss was applied to the funds, which leaves about $2.6 million for the district to use.

“During this COVID time, we’re beginning to see the learning loss that has occurred,” said Ryals. “The ARP grant was put in place to help us with that.”

The third installment is an ARP Act grant that will allow the district to focus on the reimbursements and processes for air filtration along with heating, ventilation and air conditioning in the Lafayette High School. Professional development was added to help teachers need guidance on how to address their student’s learning loss.

In addition, money was added for teacher’s assistance in the elementary school and for the upcoming summer school program. Mi-fi services, cleaning supplies and services and a request for new instruments for the Lafayette County schools’ band was requested, but not yet approved by the MDE.