After receiving community and staff input at its workshop to discuss potential uses for its Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to address learning loss Tuesday, the Carson City School District will prepare its budget for submission to the Nevada Department of Education for consideration.
Grants and Special Projects Director Valerie Dockery and Fiscal Services Director Andrew Feuling provided an overview of COVID-19’s impact on education funding in Nevada and the general fund per-pupil revenue to CCSD as the state has transitioned to its Pupil-Centered Funding Plan. The move left Carson City to cut more than $5 million in expenses in its own general fund in the past three years and only minor revenue increases aiding its budget.
The Nevada Legislature provided school districts with two rounds of funding, including the Corona Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) funds, followed by the American Rescue Plan Act signed in March 11 this year. The bill was renamed the ESSER III and intended to address learning loss that resulted from the challenges schools and students, including special populations, experienced as a direct result of time lost in the classroom due to the pandemic. ESSER II provides CCSD with approximately $4.4 million to be used through Sept. 30, 2023 and ESSER III funds, a total of approximately $9.9 million, are available through Sept. 30, 2024.
The funds could be applied to facility needs, repairs, improvements, providing meals and other essentials.
The state required that stakeholder input be collected as part of the budgeting process before applications are submitted to the Department of Education for consideration.
Dockery and Feuling on Tuesday reminded the board and several members of the public, which included Carson High School nurses and parents, that the funding is finite and planning is needed. The ESSER dollars stop in 2024, and while the relief is welcome now, there are certain requirements for them, and the district continues to face flat revenues and increasing salaries.
Board members expressed concerns about applying the funding in certain areas only to maintain such staffing or other needs later on its own while facing an ongoing deficit.
“I’m guessing that in fiscal year (2025), this is not just our district problem,” Trustee Don Carine said. “This is going to be a statewide problem. Everybody’s going to lose their funds.”
The board worried about funding key programs and services that can’t be cut, such as English as a Second Language or maintaining class size reduction.
Feuling said smaller districts like Carson City, which remains in its hold harmless state for now, are not as favored to retain their funds come fiscal year 2024-25.
Sheila Story, school nurse for Carson High School, asked the board not to overlook the nursing needs for her staff after it spent last year trying to keep up with the demands assisting students in a number of capacities. She spoke of added responsibilities with contact tracing and staying in compliance with the Nevada Revised Statutes, adding nurses should be compensated fairly for their services.
“I want to say last year was very, very tiring on our health staff, and we need support for this year to get through all of this,” Story said. “We’re there for the social and emotional support of our students. They are scared, afraid, crying, their parents are upset.
“We are offering them peace of mind, ‘Sure, come on in, our doors are open for you, we will get you in and we will ease your mind if your results are negative,’ ” she said. “I believe we truly did help faculty, staff and students with just having relief along with the education we provide to them.”
Trustee Mike Walker responded, saying the funding is a “godsend” that will allow the district to mitigate difficult circumstances for many of the district’s faculty and staff members.
“We’re trying to support all of our employees with very limited resources,” Walker said. “Hopefully you all know how much you’re appreciated.”
He then proposed some alternatives to alleviate some of the pressure Carson High’s nursing staff is experiencing with its testing needs, such as recruiting nursing students from Western Nevada College or the University of Nevada, Reno and forming partnerships with local health organizations.
The link to a complete list of all K-12 federal relief funding for Nevada is available at https://doe.nv.gov/fedrelieffund/K-12education/.