Draft Plan for Federal Funds Focuses on Academic Needs, Social and Emotional Support, Growth and Enrichment

Plan adds the full-time equivalent of approximately 17 staff members to support students next year

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 was presented at the May 25 Board of Education meeting and is available here for review.

Public comments are being accepted on the plan in advance of the district’s June 15 plan submission deadline to the state. Comments should be directed to publiccomment@niskyschools.org by Thursday, June 10.

The two most recent federal coronavirus relief packages (the December 2020 Coronavirus Recovery and Relief Supplemental Act and the March 2021 American Rescue Plan) contained funding that schools across the nation can use over the coming two to three years in light of the impact the pandemic has had on education. Niskayuna has been awarded a total of $5.6 million in these one-time funds to be used over the next three years.

The district’s plan for the use of these funds in the first year calls for nearly $3 million to be spent in five overarching areas: Expanded summer school and afterschool learning opportunities; enhanced academic support; social and emotional support; professional development for faculty and staff; and strategic investments in curriculum, materials and equipment.

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 have developed a plan to meet targeted needs and expand support and learning opportunities in our community with the federal funds.

Here are some highlights of the plan presented on Tuesday:

  • One additional K-5 intervention teacher at each elementary school to support reading and math.
  • K-12 Summer 2021 Enrichment Program (no charge to families).
  • K-5 Learning English and Math Learning Club.
  • Middle School and High School Summer School 2021.
  • Afterschool support in K-5 English & Math, 2021-22 school year.
  • K-5 Afterschool enrichment in Art, Music & World Language, 2021-22.
  • Grades 6-12 Afterschool Math, Writing, Social Studies, Science, World Language labs, 2021-22 school year.
  • English as New Language Expanded K-5 Summer Program 2021.
  • Grades 6-12 English as a New Language Afterschool Program 2021-22.
  • K-5 Teaching Assistant partners to support differentiation/small groups in Math, 2021-22.
  • Enhanced experiences for high school support/alternative education programs.
  • STEAMBus support.
  • Curriculum development and resources for 9th Grade Health Seminar.
  • Additional secondary level school psychologist.
  • Multicultural Book Club Pilot.
  • Further development of the K-8 Counseling Curriculum.
  • Literacy curriculum resources.
  • Textbooks/materials for departments that have completed program reviews (Science Engineering/Tech, World Language, Art, Social Studies, Business, ELA and Music.
  • Classroom audio enhancements.
  • Art, music, and athletics equipment

In all, the plan adds the full-time equivalent of approximately 17 staff positions, plus summer and afterschool hours, for 2021-22 through the utilization of the federal funds.

“We know from the data and experience of this year that students have gained skills in areas such as technology and flexibility. Yet, we also know that students need extra time and support to finish learning that is currently unfinished,” said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Marie Digirolamo. “We also see a great need to make sure that joy, movement and exploration are part of the learning experience. We believe that this plan will help us accomplish all of that. We both look forward to input on the plan and learning from the experience of the year ahead to help us target the remaining federal funds to do the most good for the students of Niskayuna.”

At the Board meeting, district leaders outlined the strategy of frontloading the most significant investment of the overall federal dollars in year 1(2021-22) and then tapering off the use of the federal funds over the next two years to avoid developing a reliance on funds that are going away.

The final plan that is submitted to the state on June 15 will be posted on the district website. Periodic updates to the plan will be shared during the period that the federal funding is available.