Schools seek public input on spending $23 million in federal funding | News

Public school systems in the area have until Aug. 1 to submit plans for spending more than $23 million in federal stimulus funding, and they are taking different approaches to gather required public feedback.

Alcoa City Schools will hold it second Google Meet session for the public at 10 a.m. today (June 16). The district is gathering input before drafting a plan for its $2.14 million from the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund under the American Rescue Plan Act, known as ESSER 3.0.

The ACS website also includes a brief survey, explaining that 20% of the funding must be used to help with learning losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. “We value your input as a stakeholder in helping us think about how best to recover lost learning time, the continued physical, mental, and social health of our students, ways to advance learning, and specific needs relating to facilities maintenance and infrastructure,” the survey says.

While no one showed up for last week’s online session, Alcoa’s federal programs director, Patty Thomas, said automated phone calls and emails to families have raised the number of survey responses to 142. Many are focused on adding educational staff, technology upgrades, building upgrades and more space, she said.

Blount County Schools has posted a 76-page draft plan for spending nearly $17 million on its website, inviting people to submit feedback by email to

Maryville City Schools plans to spend its $4.1 million on intervention teachers, replacing the junior high roof, and finishing the replacement of heating, ventilation and air conditioning units at Montgomery Ridge Intermediate School, according to a flyer summary. It also has a brief survey online and has received more than 200 responses.

The districts have used social media and automated messaging to families to get the word out. Alcoa also discussed the categories for spending during a Community Parent Advisory Committee meeting in May.

BCS details

The largest spending category in the BCS draft plan is nearly $6.44 million for regular instruction.

The plan calls for 23 interim teachers “to fully staff Blount County schools classrooms in order to avoid layoffs.” BCS did not respond to a Daily Times request to clarify that by press time, saying only, “The district plans to fund one core academic teacher per school to avoid a reduction in staff.”

It includes 12 learning loss interventionists, four reading coaches and four instructional interventionists, as well as the equivalent of two full-time tutors to work with the after school Friends program. Under a separate section the district has four reading coordinators to support students.

The district also is looking at adding five transition classrooms across the district for kindergartners who are not ready for first grade reading and math, to provide an extra year of instruction.

The plan also includes eight full-time equivalent positions for summer learning loss programming for grades K-8.

To address other student needs the district wants to hire one social worker, as well as four guidance counselors and two school psychologists to support students’ mental health needs as a result of the pandemic. The district said its plan to keep full-time nurses at the elementary schools also would support “the physical and mental health of students due to COVID-19.”

BCS plans to spend $2.5 million of the federal funding to build a career and technical education building at Eagleton College and Career Academy and about $2 million to repair or replace heating, ventilation and air conditioning units.

The draft plan also includes:

• $1 million for CTE equipment at the high schools but does not specify which campuses.

• $2.44 million for education technology, including the iReady benchmarking software the district uses to assess students and replacing 2,700 Chromebook computers in kindergarten, first, fifth and ninth grades.

BCS said it forwarded the plan to community stakeholders, including public officials and the Blount Partnership, and said Monday it is collecting comments “through the middle of June.”

Asked about responses so far, Amanda Vance, supervisor of elementary instruction and district communications, said BCS has received “some responses,” which “have acknowledged the hard work of the district to help families,” as well as feedback about transportation.

Maryville and Alcoa are accepting their survey responses through the end of the month.

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