BRISTOL – The Bristol Public Schools District has received $18,216,358 in federal money as part of the American Rescue Plan Act and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
Superintendent Dr. Catherine Carbone and District Executive Director of Communications, Community Partnerships and Strategic Planning Brian Burke recently sat with the Bristol Press to discuss the uses of the money in the coming years. Much of that funding is being used to accelerate enrichment programs, increase family services provided by the school and infrastructure improvements.
The district continues to make use of previous pandemic relief funding as it makes plans for its latest round of financial support from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“The ESSER II (previous covid funding relief) allocation is $8,101,092 that Bristol Public Schools have until June of 2023 to spend,” Carbone said. “The additional allocation for Bristol under ESSER ARP funding is an $18 million figure and is to be expended by June 30 of 2024.”
The superintendent said federal funding has been dedicated to academic renewal, acceleration initiatives, student enrichment, family and communication programs. Many of these programs are either new or were being “incubated” prior to the boosts from federal funding.
Those programs include Project READ for students in kindergarten through eighth grade as well as STEM Step Up for students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Funding for After School Advantage will grant further access to academic programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. On the Right Track offers improved career education paths. Creative Hearts seeks to provide enrichment opportunities through art with prekindergarten through eighth grade children. Power Up Health and Wellness also offers enrichment for children prekindergarten through eighth grade.
All of these programs may take place during school, after school or as summer programming, the superintendent said.
Funding will also go into mental health, social and emotional support efforts for students and staff.
“Additional resources will be (distributed) to support each of our schools as they roll out our climate and culture initiatives,” Carbone said. “This will focus on (student) social and emotional wellbeing.”
Carbone said the district is looking to increase or expand Family Resource Center presences within elementary and middle schools. The superintendent noted some center programs may be in their beginning stages of development while others may be more robust, depending on their respective school. Such centers seek to connect families with resources not typically found through a traditional student teacher relationship.
Carbone said such centers could provide classes to help teach parents how to work academically with their children at home along with other skills. Centers could help in connecting families with agencies that specialize in certain social services.
Funding will be allocated to enrichment and camp summer scholarships as well as climate camp professional learning for school-based teams. Carbone said summer enrichment and camp programs may include partnerships with the Boys & Girls Club of Bristol and other community partners seeking to benefit youth.
The district is also looking into trauma-informed educational programs to benefit both staff and student development.
Among technological improvements being made, the district is looking to upgrade internet networks and switches district wide. Cellular services boosters are being added to Bristol Eastern High School, Chippens Hill Middle School and Hubbell Elementary School to improve staff communication in cellular dead zone areas. Funds will be utilized to provide professional experiences for staff to learn needed educational software or technology practices and similar initiatives will be provided for parents to learn software or programs they might need to assist in their child’s education.
The district is looking to make upgrades to the Chippens Middle School HVAC system as well as the Hubbell Elementary School HVAC system. Schools are looking to provide portable air purifiers in communal spaces motivated in part by covid precautions.
Funding will also be utilized to procure additional custodial equipment and the purchase of necessary furniture and classroom fixtures for student learning and safety. The district also seeks to increase the number of buses to reduce the number of students on kindergarten through eighth grade bus routes. The district also wants to provide after school busing services for enrichment programs.