Georgia’s plan approved to spend $1.4B in federal school aid

File photo (Mary Altaffer, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ATLANTA – Georgia has received approval for its plans to use $1.4 billion in federal coronavirus relief money.

The announcement by the U.S. Department of Education was made Thursday.

Most of the money is being directly allocated to Georgia’s 180-plus school districts, with $425 million held by the state Board of Education to address statewide needs.

Federal officials already distributed two-thirds of the $4.2 billion that Georgia schools received under the American Rescue Plan, the relief bill backed by President Joe Biden that was the third major round of federal aid given to schools since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Georgia’s plan calls for deploying state-level academic recovery specialists, increased summer and after-school learning and establishing school-based health clinics, among other things.

“We are focused on supporting learning, expanding resources for student mental health and wellbeing, and ensuring the safety of students, staff, and families,” state school Superintendent Richard Woods, a Republican, said in a statement.

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona visited DeKalb County’s Kelly Lake Elementary School in Decatur on Friday to discuss $311 million in federal aid the district has received. Because most of the money was distributed based on student poverty levels, DeKalb County has received more money for its 100,000 students than some of Georgia’s other largest school districts.

“What I’ve seen here today is equity in action,” WABE-FM reported Cardona said. “The students at this school now have an opportunity to come to a school that has better air quality, (a) better ventilation system because the leaders in this community heard the parents, they heard the educators that said, ‘The air quality here is not too good. We need to improve it to re-open schools safely,’ and they did that.”

The state also said in its application that it will deploy a continuous improvement team to help schools improve internet service, facilities and equipment, help districts develop learning resources and courses and do more to educate teachers. A total of $45 million in grants will be offered to organizations running year-round programs aimed at serving at least 2,000 students across at least 15 counties. Another $40 million would go to groups running after-school and summer learning programs.

The state will also provide mental health training for teachers, provide therapeutic services to students with disabilities and help pay for teacher education in critical learning areas. It would help districts expand programs in science, technology, engineering, math, the arts, foreign languages, health and physical education.

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