A look at Newtown’s plans to spend $ 1.25 million in federal funding


NEWTOWN – The school district’s plan to spend a $ 1.25 million pandemic relief grant includes hiring specialists, strengthening homework and tutoring programs, and purchasing 300 Chromebook laptops.

“To support certain groups that have been hardest hit, we are looking for interventionists and specialists,” Superintendent Lorrie Rodrigue said Tuesday.

Newtown, like boroughs in Connecticut, are developing a plan to provide grants from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Fund grants that were included in the American bailout bill passed in March.

The idea is to help school districts get back on track after the effects of the coronavirus crisis by donating money to student enrichment, family relationships, mental health, new technology, and safe classrooms.

Rodrigue cautioned against assuming that the disruption to personal timetables and the distractions of private life in distance learning were deficiencies that needed to be corrected.

“Our students learned last year, so we need to take them off the ground and move them forward with better resources and programs,” said Rodrigue. “Calling the glass half full instead of half empty makes a huge difference in terms of student confidence and performance.”

The two-year plan for the $ 1.25 million Esser Scholarship, approved by the school board last month, would spend $ 748,000 in the 2021-2022 school year beginning Aug. 30.

First year expenses include funds for math interventionists, a special education teacher, speech therapist, tutoring and homework club support, software for student tracking and intervention, and staff and bus procurement for summer enrichment programs.

To improve family and community connections, the district plans to spend nearly $ 14,000 on a messaging and two-way communication system with households and $ 2,500 on “family information evenings” for the new elementary math program and for English learners .

To improve the district’s technology, Newtown has proposed spending $ 126,000 on 300 Chromebook laptop computers for elementary school classes and $ 27,000 on customized educational software like Rosetta Stone.

The district’s plan to spend the remaining $ 505,000 in the 2022-2023 school year includes continued funding for math and reading intervention specialists, as well as moving and storage costs associated with the proposed closure of Hawley Elementary School for a year while US $ 8 million – Dollars earmarked for ventilation renovations are complete.

This week, families had time to review the district’s Esser grant spending plan and to respond before the August 16 deadline when the plan is due to be submitted to the state.

In the meantime, the Education Committee plans to hold a virtual meeting on Wednesday to discuss possible adjustments to its budget.

“We have had input from Newtown families and stakeholders, but we will be keeping comments open (this week),” Rodrigue said.

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