District Creating Plan for Use of Federal Funds: “Smart Investments for Learning, Support & Growth”

The district’s plan for the federal coronavirus relief funds it has been allocated will focus on extra academic support, social and emotional wellness, and growth and enrichment opportunities for students. The draft plan, “Smart Investments for Learning, Support and Growth,” will be outlined at the May 25 Board of Education meeting with a public comment period to follow.

The two most recent federal coronavirus relief packages contained funding that schools across the nation can use over the coming three to four years in light of the impact the pandemic has had on education. Niskayuna has been awarded a total of $5.97 million in these one time funds to be used over a multiple year period.

In the enacted state budget, lawmakers decided that these funds should be used to supplement state aid and not to replace state aid. This is why in developing the proposed 2021-22 school budget, district leaders took care not to develop a reliance on federal funding to support recurring operating expenses. Instead, they are developing a plan to meet targeted needs and expand support and learning opportunities in our community with the federal funds.

The plan has been informed by teachers through the district programs reviews that have been completed in recent years as well as student data that has been collected on assessments, other academic measures, and the reflections of faculty and staff throughout the year.

“Over the course of the pandemic, our students have certainly gained skills in areas such as technology and flexibility, but we also know that extra academic and social-emotional support is needed,” said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Marie Digirolamo. “We are fortunate that we have had a program review system in place so our teachers have already identified priorities. This puts us in a position to concentrate this funding in areas of need like English, math, science, social studies, world language and student mental health and overall wellness.”

The plan that Digirolamo will outline on May 25 will detail investments in:

  • Summer learning: Academic help, credit recovery and Arts enrichment
  • School year: Additional targeted K-5 reading and math interventions
  • Expanded support for English language learners
  • Afterschool learning opportunities next year for both academic help and Arts enrichment
  • Professional development for teachers and staff for academic priorities, equity and mental health/wellness
  • Technology and equipment needs
  • Curriculum materials to support program review priorities

Following the presentation of the “Smart Investments for Learning, Support and Growth” plan on May 25, a public comment period will be opened for teachers, families and community members to provide feedback on the plan. The plan will also be monitored and updated as needed during the course of the years that the federal funding is available for.